What is the Karachi Project. It is a project devised by the ISI and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in the year 2003. The plan was to carry out a series of coordinated attacks in India and the 26/11 attack was also part of it. The ISI even roped in the Indian Mujahideen to carry out attacks in the country.
Mumbai, Nov 26: Who is Ahmed Yakub? He is the head of the maritime wing of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) who had managed to ship into India almost 60,000 rounds of ammunition a year after the 26/11 attack.
The shipment remains a mystery, but what officials can confirm is that it was at the same time that the Lashkar was planning on executing its ambitious Karachi project which proposed to carry out a series of attacks in India similar to the 26/11 strikes.
The biggest mystery of the 26/11 attack is Sajid Mir or Sajeed Majeed. After the attack of 26/11 there was nothing known about him and it was over the next year or so that his name surfaced during the interrogation of David Headley. Branded as an international terrorist and the man who handled David Headley, Sajid Mir the 1976 born operative according to the intelligence provided to India by the Mossad he is holed up in Murdike which is situated near Lahore.
What is the mysterious Mir doing in Murdike: Murdike is an extremely strategic location for Mir. His home is the near the Ganda Nala lane in Lahore Pakistan which is very close to Murdike which also happens to be one of the main base camps of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, the outfit he works for. He is a key player for the Lashkar and today his importance for them is immense as they prepare to launch the Karachi Project which they have been working for some time now.
The arrest of Rattandeep Singh has prevented yet another attempt by the ISI to revive the Karachi Project. In the year 2010, the ISI had roped in all Punjab militant groups to be part of the project and once a series of successful attacks were completed they planned on ensuring a coordination of home grown terror outfits and the Punjab militants to carry out a series of attacks on Indian soil with Delhi being the prime target.
Rattandeep Singh who was questioned by the Punjab police and also sleuths of the Intelligence Bureau revealed that their patience was running out and they had planned on a series of attacks to be carried out by the 15 modules they had set up in Punjab and Delhi since the year 2005. The only successful attack in the recent past was the Ludhiana attack.
Singh rose from the ranks of a driver to a dreaded operative. Singh first worked first as a driver for Paramjit Panjwar the chief of the Khalistan Commando force. Following the birth of another outfit by the name Bhindranwale Tiger Force, Khalistan, he was made the chief.
When the Karachi Project was mooted by Pakistan’s ISI in the year 2003, Yasin Bhatkal was not even in the picture. There is a lot of confusion about what the Karachi Project is and Yasin Bhatkal who played a major role in implementing the same 5 years after it was planned tells the police the real story.
Yasin basically says that the Karachi project which was derived from the BPO model of outsourcing had one solitary agenda- “be more aggressive and create bad publicity, fear and death in India.
With the heat on Riyaz and Iqbal at an all time high and with India’s improving relations with the Gulf, Pakistan ensured that these two men were moved out of Sharjah and placed under their nose in Karachi. The address that the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing have obtained states that the two live at the Defence Housing Colony, residential area Phase VI. They were moved into this address in the month of November 2012.
The government accorded sanction to the National Investigating Agency a couple of days to file its chargesheet against nine persons involved in the 26/11 attack. While the irony remains that none of these persons who will be named in this chargesheet will not be tried in person, India still feels that this would act as a document to push Pakistan harder to crack down on the terror network on its soil
The sanction was accorded in so far as David Headley, Tawwahur Rana, Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Sajid Mir, Abdul Rehman Hashmi, Major Iqbal, Major Samir Ali and Ilyas Kashmiri. The fact of this matter is none of these persons are in the custody of the Indian police and when the goes up for trial each one of them will have to be tried and convicted in absentia.
The case of the NIA largely rests on the statements of David Headley. The role played the remaining 8 members and even the Karachi project is something that has been spoken about by Headley himself. However NIA sources say that the entire chargehseet is not a testimony of Headley alone and there are a lot of elements in the chargesheet which have pieced together by the investigations done by the NIA itself.
India has been sending out dossiers all these years to Pakistan speaking about the men that were involved in the 26/11 attack. The chargesheet against the nine persons and the mention of the Karachi Project is expected to give legitimacy to the Indian allegation against Pakistan. Moreover there are testimonies by Headley which have been certified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation which will only add weight to the allegations against Pakistan.
While the chargesheet would be a major step forward on India’s investigation into the 26/11 case and the foreign hand, there would still be many mysteries that would remain at the end of it. The first of the mysteries that would always remain are those surrounding Sajid Mir, Headley’s mysterious handler, Major Samir Ali and Major Iqbal. Indian investigators would also agree that these three names would continue to pose a mystery. It is one thing to investigate against persons, but in this case, their existence has always been denied. Leave alone an extradition, it would be important to first get Pakistan to agree about the existence of these three persons.
NIA officials say that the chargesheet would not be a final stamp on the 26/11 investigation. While this chargesheet would be prepared and placed before the court immediately, they would also seek permission of the court to add more aspects of the case in the form of an additional chargesheet. The first addition that one could expect in the near future is the role played by Rana. While most of the Rana angle depends largely on Headley’s version and also the FBI version of it, the NIA would look to question him in person once his trial is complete.
The other mystery that the NIA would like to crack is that surrounding Headley’s India mission. The testimony by Headley is the only version that the NIA has on it and there are some additions that have been made based on the persons that Headley met while he was in India. Here it becomes very important for them to question Faiza Outalha, the lady who was married to Headley. She was also present in India for sometime before she left the country. The NIA feels that she would be able to provide some additional details regarding the case and also regarding the visit made by Headley. The NIA will now send a letter rogatory to the Government of Morocco so that it could access her and question her about the case. Faiza is currently based in Morocco.
The Italian mystery is another angle that would require some serious thought. A lettor regatory had been issued to the Italian court to interrogate the father son duo of Mohammad Januja and Aamer Januja. The allegation against the two who were arrested by the Italian police was that they had transferred 229 dollars to the Callphonex VoIP service which was used by the 26/11 attackers to communicate with each other.
The Oman connection involving Abdul Al-Hooti is also another angle that will have to be probed. The allegation against him was that he had raised money to fund the 26/11 attack. Indian police are in constant touch with their Omani counterparts seeking information on this man who they believe had raised a considerable amount to facilitate the attack.
Athar Butt the man arrested in Spain is another name that India would like to have in the chargesheet. This is a matter which is still under probe and it is believed that he had help forge documents to facilitate the passports of the operatives who travelled in and out of India in connection with the 26/11 attack.
The most recent angle to crop up was an incident involving a phone hacking incident in which some persons were arrested in Phillipines. It was believed that around 2 million dollars was generated through this operation. It has been alleged that some hackers were working for Muhammad Zamir from Italy who ran a call centre. It is alleged that these persons had hacked into the AT&T phone systems and raised money which is believed to have been used to finance the Lashkar-e-Tayiba which carried out the 26/11 attack.
The National Investigating Agency says that it would soon have the much awaited chargesheet against David Headley and Tawwahur Rana. While most of the points mentioned in the chargesheet would in tandem with the investigation conducted by the FBI and also the testimony of Headley, the more important feature that would figure is regarding the ambitious Karachi Project.
Ever since the arrest of Headley there has been a lot that has been spoken about the Karachi Project. This project has a lot of relevance as it is considered to be one of the most ambitious projects staged by the dreaded ISI where it plans on combining Pakistan forces and also home grown terrorists to launch a spate of attacks on India.
Sources in the Intelligence Bureau who have been keeping a track of this project say that the information gathered so far indicates that there is still work going on regarding this project and the ISI plans on involving several Indian cadres from all parts of the country. One should not be under the misconception that this is a one off attack. Instead it would be a series of attacks and would classify as a full fledged war against India. The 26/11 attack was just a reminder that Pakistan has every intention of carrying out a battle with India by targeting innocents in India. They do realise that their war along the border has not yielded any success and hence for them it would be a better option to launch terror strikes at regular intervals so that there is chaos in the nation.
The re-grouping of the Indian Mujahideen is just a pre-cursor to the Karachi attack. If one notices the recent arrests, it becomes clear that the cadres were arrested from different parts of the country only going on to show that their operations were spread out. The IM would is looking to tweek its strong pockets in the country and would make use of existing resources to re-group. Moreover they have been getting ample help from Pakistan based outfits such as the Jaish-e-Mohammad and also the Lashkar-e-Tayiba to set up their modules.
The main idea would be to have a strong home grown outfit such as the IM and then launch a series of attacks across the country. The attacks could be small or big in nature, but the main idea would be continue causing havoc and keep investigators on their toes.
The IB says that the bigger attack would however be launched by a dedicated outfit from Pakistan. There is a need to be on the look out as the ISI plans a repeat of 26/11. Take a look at the incidents leading up to 26/11. There was absolute chaos in the country in the form of a series of blasts which started off at Jaipur and Uttar Pradesh. Then there were a series of attacks in a spate of a month which occurred at Bangalore Ahmedabad and Delhi. What these attacks ideally did was throw the police off guard and kept them on the trail of the Indian Mujahideen cadres. In the bargain the bigger issue was completely ignored which unfortunately led up to the 26/11 attack.
This is something that they would want to repeat. Despite there being a lot of world pressure on Pakistan there is no way in which they can keep their forces on hold and they would want such attacks to be repeated on Indian soil. It is a monster they have created and they will continue to be eaten by them, an IB official pointed out.
However the second part of the Karachi project is no big secret today. India could say that the pattern is well known and unlike the 26/11 days we are not entirely in the dark today.
Headley spoke at length about this project and even takes the Ilyas Kashmiri to be involved in this. When one takes the name of Kashmiri, it becomes clear that it is not some attack involving a bomb blast, but would be a full fledged fidayeen strike. This also gives the impression that all terror outfits in Pakistan are standing together and there is no confusion what so ever between the Al-Qaeda and also the Lashkar.
Former Home Secretary G K Pillai too had once said that the worry is that Headley during his India trip had prepared much more than just sketches for the 26/11 attack. He had visited Delhi among other places and prepared sketches and these have fallen into the hands of Pakistan based groups. It could always be used as we have seen how well he has documented the targets in the past.
Intelligence Bureau officials also point out that Pakistan is well prepared for such an attack and it is important that we do not carried away by smaller operations. Although it is important to keep a constant check on home grown activities, there is a bigger need to watch what is happening across the border.
NIA sources say that there is a lot of proof regarding this project and Headley too has provided details regarding the same and it would be documented too.
The seizure of the car laden with explosives at Ambala last evening has had Intelligence agencies and the police department on its toes. While it has been by and large ascertained that the car was headed towards New Delhi in order to carry out a major explosion at Diwali time another intercept that has been slowly trickling in is that the operation may have been a joint venture of the Babbar Khalsa International and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.
So the big question is whether this is a plan that has been foiled or is it a pre cursor of something more to come. There has been some very specific intelligence intercepts about the coming together of both these outfits. In fact a large number of militants of the BKI have been under the roofs of Pakistani militants for over a decade now. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the BKI has been seeking the help of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the ISI to regroup its modules so that it could carry out attacks on Indian soil.
After the major crack down on the BKI and the rest of the groups in Punjab most of the leaders fled to Pakistan. They have been training and also setting up their outfit under the care of the ISI. The ISI in fact has intentionally decided to very sparingly use these persons from Punjab. The interest of these militants has always been Punjab alone and once ready they would look to wage a war in that state all over again. However the ISI would use their cadres to strike at the epicentres such as the capital-New Delhi.
Going back to the Ambala operation the preliminary investigations would suggest that the explosives were held out for the BKI by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba militants in the Valley. The same was confirmed by Arun Kampani, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Special Cell.
However according to reports of the Intelligence Bureau both the Lashkar and the BKI would work in tandem in India. This operation gives the indication of the same. A couple of months ago there were related incidents in Punjab as well where explosives stocked by the Lashkar militants in the Valley were handed over to the BKI who were planning on using the same.
It would be interesting to go back to the interrogation of two BKI cadres Daljith Singh and Purushotham Singh who were arrested at Mohali a year ago. Their interrogation report makes it clear what plan their outfit had in store for India. During their interrogation they do give out details about how the two outfits have been working in tandem with each other. In fact they have even said the revival of militancy in Punjab is very much part of the much hyped up Karachi Project. The Karachi project basically is the coming together of various outfits affiliated with India who would in turn carry out a series of attacks across the country.
The interrogation of the two men had also suggested that their leader Paramjith Singh is currently in Pakistan and he is the one who has been controlling operations.
Until last year the BKI and its affiliates had not focused much on terror operations per se. They were more interested in setting up their modules and also pumping in infiltrators to strengthen their base. Although the epi centre of this problem lies in Pakistan, the BKI has made constant efforts to regroup in India and be less reliant on the Pakistan soil. Although the ISI claimed that the ideologies of both the Lashkar and the BKI matched a great deal the latter always used the Pakistan soil as a matter of convenience. They do realise that they need the help of a very strong force in order to re start operations in India. At the moment the training activities for these militants is all taking place in the Pakistani areas of Lakhpat, Chakwal, Gujranwala, Mianwali, Kot ,Peshawar, Attock, Shahidan Da Banga and Gulbarg.
The BKI has had many a failed attempt in the past two years. There was a plot at Mohali that was foiled, several infiltration attempts were scuttled, the attack on the CWG too was a damp squib and today’s incident as per the on going investigations is also a failed attempt. However they can claim success in only one incident which occurred four years back at a theatre in Ludhiana. That was probably the first sign of the return of this militancy and it had become clear during the probe that it was carried out with the blessings of Pakistan based militants.
Intelligence agencies however warn that the alert is high around the Valley, Punjab and the areas around New Delhi. The BKI has been making various attempts and we would not completely rule out a slight possibility of a BKI trace in the recent Delhi High Court blast. The seizure has to be looked at in two ways. It could either be intentional as an attention diverter or it could be a genuine case which has been foiled, the IB points out. However what the police state is that going by the manner in which the BKI has operated, it is very evident that they would not go in for a small operation and their operations have always been on a very large scale.
Although India is aware of this problem the real issue lies with Pakistan as it has under their umbrella the likes of-
Wadhawan Singh Babbar: Chief of BKI, Ranjith Singh Neeta: Chief of Khalistan Zindabad Force, Paramjeet Singh Panjawar: Chief of Khalistan Commando force,. Lakhbhir Singh Rode: Chief of ISYF and Gajinder Singh: The leader of Dal Khalsa. All these men have their permanent addresses at Lahore since the past one decade.
Indian Mujahideen- Tracking the enemy within is a book which deals with the recent acts of terror which have exploded the myth that Indian youth is insulated from the global terrorism phenomenon and had little time for extremism. The communal riots post the 1992 incident, the rise of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the mutation of a section of aspiring Muslim youth into terrorists with the help of forces across the border.
Shishir Gupta the Editor, Express News Service of The Indian Express Newspaper who is the author of this book says that this book deals with the various trends of Home Grown Jihad in India apart from a host of other issues on the subject.
The story of home-grown jihadists would have been skewed had it not been for the testimonies of David Coleman Headley and Sarfaraz Nawaz on the involvement of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence, top Lashkar-e-Taiba leadership, the Al Qaida and the Karachi project, whose demon child the Indian Mujahideen is. This book is the first-ever attempt to link up jihadists all over India and trace their linkages with terrorists based in countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
In this interview with rediff.com, Gupta discusses in detail the various aspects of terrorism that has rocked our country, the future trends and a host of other issues pertaining to the subject.
Sir, could you tell us what your book is about?
Basically the book picks up various trends of Home Grown jihad in India. It is all about the growth of Home Grown jihad in India and its inter-section with the conservative Salafi ideology. Further the book also deals with how funding for terrorism and the ideology got mixed up and it joins the dots on the various incidents of terror in the past one decade. It gives us details about how all this took place and also looks at the various revealations made by David Headley and also Sarfaraz Nawaz. Further the book also deals with the manner in which all these cases of terror were probed in India and also goes on to point out some instances where investigations were not carried out in a proper manner. Each of these incidents are analysed.
Further it also gives us a full fledged picture of the Headley confessions and also what the Karachi Project is. On the 26/11 front it deals with the various players such as Sajid Mir and the other players in this plot. The book charts the growth of home grown jihad in India and the influence of conservative Islam or Salafism along with funding from Pakistan and Middle-East on already radicalised SIMI youth in India. It joins the dots as far as terrorist incidents of the past decade are concerned with detailed insight in the support given to local Indian youth through testimonies of David Coleman Headley, Khawaja Amjad Sheikh and Sarfarz Nawaz. The book gives insight into Abdur Rehman Saeed’s so-called Karachi project, a joint venture of ISI-LeT, and the filure of the Indian law enforcement agencies in detecting the tale of retribution and counter-retribution being palyed out between Muslim and Hindu extremists. It enphasises on the need for police to properly investigate terror cases and not come up with tailor made accusations or the real culprits like in the cases of blasts in Makkah Masjid, Sarojni Nagar and local trains will never be found.
Today there appears to be a lull in India where activities of terrorists are concerned. Do you think groups such as the Indian Mujahideen are on the backfoot?
I would not say that the Indian Mujahideen is dead and neither would I agree that it is on the back foot. It is slowly re-grouping and that is my understanding of it. Two days ago there was a report of the NSG regarding the IED which was found outside the Delhi High Court. The device had ammonium nitrate, grease, wax and detonators. In this particular case the detonators had mal functioned. Look at the September 19 2010 incident where a car had been burnt. There again the detonators had failed. Had these bombs gone off properly then it would have been a major incident. This is an indicator that there is a group which is still active
Indian Mujahideen according to the Intelligence Bureau is an off shoot of the Students Islamic Movement of India. Did the ban on SIMI lead to the emergence of a more dreaded outfit?
SIMI was basically the feeder cadre. I am not saying that everyone in the SIMI is out to kill people. There was an element within the SIMI which was radicalised. Safdar Nagori would have seen the Hindu aggression post Babri and Gujarat. There was an element under pressure in this group which was under pressure and some got mutated into this.
There was already a critical mass in India in the form of radicalised SIMI cadre, which got mutated into IM under pressure from Hindu assertiveness and support from ISI and its sponsored groups with significant funding from the
For the ISI a home grown outfit was always important in order to keep focus away from Pakistan and groups such as the IM and SIMI provided this solution. If the police are to be believed then the IM is down and out as of today. In such a situation what happens to the concept of home grown Jihad?
The basic ideology is to destablise India and this they will continue to do irrespective of the name of the terrorist organisation. The core continues to be SIMI and if you look at the activities in Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh there are still certain groups which are active. Take the case of T Nasir who was first part of the lashkar-e-Tayiba and then the Indian Mujahideen. Despite him changing outfits the intention always remained the same for him. There continues to remain a huge dissatisfied lot and these are the people who will continue to destablise India. The ISI has always been looking for such elements and have even tried to penentrate into the naxal movement. The objective to destablise will always remain.
The big wigs of the IM such as Abdus Subhan continue to be on the run. Do you think that men such as these are capable of re-building the outfit again?
My understanding of him is different. It has been claimed that he is behind almost all the incidents undertaken by the Indian Mujahideen. Subhan is not on the CBI’s most wanted lost. There is no red corner notice on him. He is a friend of Nagori. He had an ideology and was a die hard SIMI cadre. Till 2008 I have nothing on paper to say that he was a terrorist. Once the likes of Nagori and the rest were arrested we see him getting closer to Bhatkal and it is said that he sought revenge for the Gujarat riots. Both he and Safdar were not talking about bombs. They were talking about shooting incidents. To say he is the king pin is not correct. The likes of Amir Reza Khan, Ilyas Kashmiri and Sajid Mir are all very much around and these men are very dangerous. Then there is also Dr Shahnawaz who is equally important in this outfit who continues to be out.
What do you make of the alleged death of Riyaz Bhatkal? Do you think this news is true?
Now I have tried to cross check it in various places. We are not getting much about his movements. So there could be a possibility of him being bumped off. But the point is there is no confirmation. Amjad Khwaja Sheikh’s interrogation confirmed the killing of Shahid Bilal in Karachi. So till such time there is a substantive corroboration of Riyaz Bhatkal’s demise, one should keep their fingers crossed.
Which states do you think cadres of the IM would utilize today to re-build their organization?
South India is the next base. Kerala is worrisome, Karnataka will have a bad mix since the naxalism is spreading out there. Then again there is Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh always has a political element to it. However my key concern will always remain Kerala.
Speaking of the 26/11 attack, do you think these home grown outfits had any role to play at least in helping the likes of David Headley survey their targets?
It is very hard to swallow what both the IB and the police say. They say that there was no local support. Looking at the scope and bandwidth of the attack it is clear that there were local players. However these local players had limited roles to play If you look at the various reports you get a feel that there were locals who played a part but all through never knew about the scope and the magnitude of the attack. There are a lot of aspects we never knew regarding this attack. Had it not been for the Americans, we would have never know about David Headley.
The Gulf angle to Indian terrorism is something that we cannot rule out. Do you think India needs to be more assertive while dealing with the cadres of the IM settled in these nations?
The point in this is that we need to build up developmental and economic leverage with these countries. There is a lot more we need to do regarding this. Last year there was an alert from the Home Ministry regarding three persons, but they were allowed to go. At the end of the day if we do not take this issue lying down then those countries will start to take us seriously.