Monu who also goes by the alias, Tehsin Akthar is the most dangerous Indian terrorist according to the National Investigation Agency. He poses the greatest threat to the nation today says a report by the National Investigation Agency which had recently launched a massive manhunt for him.
The NIA further points out that Tehsin heads 13 modules in the country. Out of the 13 modules operational, 5 are from Azamgarh, 4 from Darabhanga, 1 from Ranchi, 1 from Hyderabad and 2 from Karnataka. This is a clear indicator about the operational areas of the Indian Mujahideen and it also goes on to show that the outfit no longer relies on its powerful Maharashtra module.
While there was no major headway that had been made in the 13/7 investigations, the biggest find one could say in this entire probe was the finding of the Bihar module of the Indian Mujahideen. There was a lurking doubt that the Indian Mujhaideen was trying to set up modules in lesser suspected states, but the probe into the 13/7 blasts led the agencies directly to the Bihar module which infact turned out to be a major one.
The first of the signs that led to the cracking of the Bihar module when two operatives by the names Naki Ahmed and Nadeem Akthar were arrested. The duo hailed from Bihar and it was said that they were handed over a sum of Rs 1.5 lakh to carry out the operation by Yasin Bhatkal.
The 13/7 operation was an inter linked one and it was found that blasts at Delhi and Bangalore were also carried out by the same Bihar module. In all there were 11 modules which took part in the 13/7 operations and the main ones were at Araria, Madhubani and Sitamarhi.
Sources in the Intelligence Bureau say that the 13/7 blasts was an important operation for the Indian Mujahideen since the outfit had been lying low for quite some time. The blasts at Chinnaswamy and also at Delhi were small operations and they were more of a wake up call. However with the 13/7 operation they did manage to create a huge impact and also hit at areas which were major business centres. What the creation of the Bihar module did was, it sent the police on a wild goose chase and it took a very long time before they even discovered where the attack originated out of.
The operatives or the foot soldiers that were used during the 13/7 attack were mostly illegal immigrants and this was a deliberate ploy on part of the Indian Mujahideen to avoid the heat. Moreover the use of communication via emails or even the mobile phone was extremely restricted which again led to the police having a tough time in nabbing the culprits.
It was however an operation conducted in Tamil Nadu by the Delhi police which finally blew the lid off the Indian Mujahideen and its Bihar operation. During the interrogation of the various persons that were picked up during this operation including an operative by the name Riazul Sarkar it was found that the operation was planned with the Bihar module in mind. He also revealed that the modules that carried out the 13/7 attack were based in areas of Bihar which had a huge influx of illegal immigrants and this was an intentional ploy as the police would not find out what was going on so easily.
The IM for the 13/7 operation ensured that the entire planning was kept out of the ambit of the Maharashtra modules since they did realise that there was a lot of scrutiny in this state. All through the operation had been planned in Bihar and finally they managed to carry out a successful attack which killed scores of people.
When the Indian Mujahideen orchestrated the recent spate of attacks across India, investigators took a while before they could figure out the modus operandi. Post 13/7 and the Delhi High Court blasts, what foxed investigators was the complete absence of telephone conversations that led up to the planning and the execution of these blasts.
Today the investigators are able to make some sense out of this and have realized that it was the social networking sites that were being used to communicate between the cadres. In addition to this, the police have also found that some cadres of the Indian Mujahideen were trying to conduct recruitment’s through their Facebook accounts through hidden messages.
The Indian Mujahideen has been quick in the use in the use of technology when it came to planning and executing their operations. They started out with the use of emails, then moved on to chats and later Skype through which they communicated. However when the police finally got wind of this, they improvised by using the drafts in a mail and also the cache to store their messages in accounts which was accessed through a common username and password.
Planning:Yasin Bhatkal who today is the big boy in the Indian Mujahideen had extensively used social networking sites to stay in touch with his fellow men in the outfit. Personalized messages were sent out and also status updates in coded forms were used to communicate his plans which eventually led to two very horrific blasts. According to the police the use of social networking commenced in the year 2008 itself, but then it was sparingly used at that time. They had a back up plan on hand and had decided on using social networking more extensively only if their other forms of communication failed.
However post 2008 there was very strict monitoring of the manner in which the IM cadres communicated amongst each other through emails and also phones which prompted them to use social networking sites extensively. The first use of social networking in a major way was visible during the Varanasi blasts. The accused who had fled India for Dubai orchestrated the Varanasi blasts through the use of social networking sites. The messages were simple and heavily coded language had been used to pass on information. It was at that time that the IM was looking to rebuild and they were content with smaller attacks just to keep the ball rolling and announce that they were not out of contention. Hence by intentionally maintaining a low profile and using very little man force they managed to carry out the Varanasi blasts.
The same was witnessed during the 13/7 and also the Delhi blasts. During the run up to these attacks, the IM cadres in India met directly and discussed their plans. They did realize that one on one meetings left very little trail. They then used these networking sites to communicate with their other counterparts who were in different locations. All this went unnoticed by the police which helped them execute their plans with a great deal of ease.
Shishir Gupta, the author of the book- Indian Mujahideen, Tracking the Enemy Within says. “ for an aspiring global power, India is very vulnerable to cyber attacks by terrorist groups. Since 2005 IM modules have been communicating through cyber space with the use of emails, Skype etc. Hence when we speak of the use of social networking sites, it is only natural that they would have upgraded their capabilities. With the option of mobile phones and also satellite phones out it was expected that they would use such sites to communicate. This in fact has proven to be a safe method of communication for them.
The Danger ahead: While now it is clear that the IM has been using social networking sites to communicate, there is also this danger where the recruitment’s are concerned. It is not necessary that they would continue to use very popular networking sites to communicate their plans amongst each other. The police are not ruling out a possibility of the use of lesser known sites for communication.
However the bigger worry ahead is the manner in which they would try and recruit and also communicate their agenda through such sites. The IM has been trying to fashion itself on the lines of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and has been quoting some social causes before they carry out their attacks. They are constantly looking for sympathy amongst the younger lot and have been successful to a large extent.
During the past couple of months it has been witnessed that some members of the outfit who are present on popular social networking sites have been sending out friend requests to college students, persons in high positions and also journalists. While they would snoop on some profiles the requests sent out to college students is nothing but a bait. Once the friend request is sent out, there are messages that are posted regarding the kind of news that is appearing against their community and also discussions regarding the various issues such as Godhra or a Babri are discussed thus dishing out sentiments. The success rate has not been all that great according to the police, but even they manage to bait one out of 20 people, the IM would be content.
Cyber security experts say that there is no one point solution to this problem. The cyber police need to constantly watch popular sites and also the activity over the internet. There is no point in finding out things after the damage has been done and it is necessary that the police remain one up on the game.
When one Karnataka police official who was serving in Bhatkal was asked about Riyaz Bhatkal he had this to say, “he was nothing but a chindi chor before he was roped in to become a big time terrorist.”
Investigators who have been probing the various Indian Mujahideen related cases in Karnataka today say that a large part of the outfit was angry with Riyaz since they felt that he had betrayed them when he scooted with cash meant for the outfit just when he realised that the heat had increased on him.
Riyaz Bhatkal who hails from the coastal town ofBhatkalwas in possession of Rs 38 lakh which was collected through hawala transactions and donations. All this money was supposed to be used for terror operations in and around the Karnataka circle. However going by the manner in which he carried out the stadium blasts inBangaloreit becomes clear that he did not spend more than Rs 10000 for the entire operation and it was classified as a flop.
An official part of the probe says that during the questioning of the various men from the IM, it became clear that Bhatkal had diverted off a lot of funds for his own personal gain. Moreover just before he fled the country, he took all the money kept aside for terror operations along with him, thus leaving the operatives over here with nothing.
The police say that the split within the IM began more to do with the fact that some of the operatives have diverted from their primary agenda and thought of making terrorism more of a money racket. This would ideally mean that they were diverting from the main idea of ideological terrorism and focusing more making it a money spinning business.
When the IM was launched it was specifically told to use all its funds into carrying out terror activities inIndia. The ISI was in fact very clear in its directive and had helped the IM raise funds through various channels. In terms of donations and hawala transactions, the IM had easily at its disposal over Rs 10 crore in the first year of it being launched. The money was supposed to be used to set up modules, camps and also procuring arms and ammunition. For the first part of the year the directive was being followed, but later on things did change when operatives such as Bhatkal decided to use the money for their own personal gain.
Bhatkal who has been largely credited with the setting up of the Karnataka-Maharashtra modules of the IM which is considered to be the strongest is today being seen as a traitor for siphoning funds belonging the outfit. The interrogation of the stadium blasts accused reveals that the organisation was hard pressed for money in the last two years especially when they needed it the most. They did not have the courage to question Bhatkal since he was too big in the organisation. They were given arms and ammunition of very poor quality and hardly any money was spent on the logistics. In fact the stadium blasts in particular was more of an operation to show the police that they were still alive. The original plan was not to carry out such a meek attack and considering the fact that they did manage to penetrate through the security at the stadium they should have carried out a more sophisticated attack.
Bhatkal according to some police officials who have interrogated him when he was in Bhatkal was always more interested in raising money for himself. He had no ideology of a terrorist and always made his money by passing on information to the two communities in Bhatkal who have always been at logger heads with each other. It was expected of him to do something of this sort even when he was part of a terror network since old habits do die hard.
The investigators looking into the IM operations in other parts of the country also point out that many of the operatives started using the money for their own personal benefits. Hence the exercise to rebuild the outfit had been taking this long. They have decided to operate in independent modules and have had a success rate, but they could never ready themselves for a bigger operation due to the lack of funds.
The ISI which controls this outfit directly is well in the know of this development and have deliberately kept the activities of this outfit low. The original idea was to use them completely for their much spoken about Karachiproject and for this they needed a very strong outfit. Today they are trying to restructure the entire leadership and ensurethat the IM is more ideologically driven like how it was during its inception four and half years back.