NIA’s poor record- Who is to blame?

Three years have gone by since the National Investigation Agency has been formed. The report card for India’s premier agency probing cases of terror does not look all that good, but the question that we must ask is whether the agency has been allowed to function in a manner that it ought to have.

In all the NIA is in charge of around 35 cases which also include the high profile David Headley probe. On paper if one looks at it the NIA has managed to solve just one case- the bomb explosion at a bus depot in Kozhikode, Kerala, in 2006. The other high profile cases that the NIA has on its hand are the Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Delhi High Court blasts case among others.

When the NIA was formed after the horrific 26/11 attacks there was a great deal of hope and it was expected that it would solve each and every case pertaining to terrorism in no time. However that has not been the case and on many occasions it has been found that the NIA has been left clueless and not to mention the delay in cracking cases.

However it would be unfair to blame the NIA entirely for this slow progress rate. It has had its share of problems and more often than not it has found to be undoing a mess caused by shoddy investigators. The Mecca Masjid, Samjautha and Malegaon cases are a typical example of this. First the Muslims were arrested in these cases and now the investigations have taken a turn around. The NIA is too busy clearing this mess. When the NIA took over the files there was not an inkling as to who the real culprit was. First a process of discharging the innocent took place and only then did the real investigation begin. Any investigator worth his salt would point out that it is difficult to probe a case in which the accused has been given years together to flee. The main culprits in the above mentioned cases have had nearly 5 years to wipe out evidence, move out of the country and also mislead investigators thanks to the fact that the first investigators were too busy probing a completely wrong angle to the case.

Take the case of David Headley and also Tawwahur Rana. The NIA faced similar problems as they were at the mercy of the United States of America. All the information that could trickle by came out only when the US wanted it. Moreover the US had permitted Headley to enter into a plea bargain which was probably one of the biggest stumbling blocks for the NIA. Moreover after waiting for months they managed to get access and Headley refused to speak even a sentence more than what he had already told the FBI. Hence the entire case was built up based on what was already known.

Now coming to the fresh cases such as the 13/7 and also the Delhi High Court blasts. Not much progress was really made and even today the investigators remain clueless. At first the NIA was roped in to probe the 13/7 case. But then they ran into problems with the Maharashtra ATS as a result of which the NIA backed out. After all these tussles that took place almost three months had passed and investigators started from scratch and the worst part is that both agencies had different information which was never really shared thanks to this fight. Even in the Delhi High Court blasts despite the government stating that the NIA would probe this case, the Delhi police probed this case simultaneously. Once again the information was not shared and this led to a hazy probe.

Radha Vinod Raju who was the first chief of the NIA had said in an earlier interview with that the cases taken by the NIA are tough to crack. The NIA needs to collect evidence before taking action and should not arrest suspects only to deflect pressure.  The NIA comprises officers who have had exposure to terrorism and terror-related case. They are a committed lot and there is sincerity in their approach towards work. The output of their effort clearly reflects their enthusiasm. In this respect, it’s the best investigating agency that India has seen so far.
C D Sahay, former Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing points out that the NIA is very essential to deal with crimes with ramifications all over the country.

For it to succeed it must be empowered and enabled not only through federal legislations, but by a change of heart amongst all investigating agencies across the country. In Delhi and also the 13/7 case there was an issue about dealing with cases. The NIA remained a spectator. This territorial approach will not allow any organisation to function properly.

We should try out the American experience where the agency is involved in every aspect of the investigation right from collection of evidence to prosecution. Sadly in India the bureaucracy gets involved in a turf war where none should exist. I really hope I am proven wrong for the betterment of the system.


13/7-ATS still gropes in the dark

The 13/7 blasts were a wake up call to the security agencies of the nation. The fact that these blasts are today half a year old and the more important fact that not one single clue has been found is a major cause for concern for the security agencies. The Maharashtra ATS one may say is in the dark despite interrogating over 1300 persons in connection with this attack. A couple of months after the attack the police claimed that it was a module of the Indian Mujahideen which carried out this attack. However till date the questioning of several persons has not given an indication as to which module carried this attack out. There have been no signs to show that any activity from the Pune module took place before this attack. The ATS is however optimistic of cracking the case, but looking at the manner in which the leads have been trickling it appears to be a herculean task. The first bit of optimism came about when the Delhi police cracked down on the Bihar module of the Indian Mujahideen a month back. Independent investigations done by both the Delhi and Maharashtra ATS have given no leads regarding the 13/7 case. When the investigation into the Pune module did not yield results, the Bihar module was looked into. However the police did not find any clues over there too. A source however informed that such cases cannot be probed by state based agencies. The NIA was roped in to help this investigation, but then there was a falling out between the officials which led to the NIA backing. Out of the probe. Today it is the NIA which has the data base of the terror related incidents across the country and ideally they ought to have probed this case as well. The Maharashtra ATS did tend to get stuck in various problems as the investigation involved inputs coming in from various other states. Ideally the NIA would have handed this matter better as it does enjoy unlimited jurisdiction thanks to the powers bestowed on it by the Home Ministry. Today the ATS is even finding it hard to say if it was the IM which carried out the attack. The ATS has explored states such as Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and even West Bengal in search for clues, but returned empty handed from every state. The closest the ATS came to cracking this case was when it arrested a man by the name Haroon Rashid. His interrogation was followed with the arrest of another person by the name Asrar Hamid. Earlier the ATS claimed that these men had travelled to Pakistan and then they had planned this attack. However at the end of it all the ATS got was a case of fake currency against them. Some in the Intelligence Bureau feel that the exploring of the underworld angle to this case would not be such a bad idea. The I’m had no reason to carry this attack out at this point in time considering they already had a sucessful attack in Maharashtra in the form of the German Bakery blasts. The other angle they would also need to dig deeper into is the role played by individuals. The ATS will also need to have some more patience and watch how the leads into the Bihar module shapes up before it could make its next move in this case.

Real time info- Will it stop the Cyber Terror wave?

Cyber terrorism is becoming India’s biggest concern and today if one looks at the laws in place, it is clear that our approach has been more reactive than preventive. Now the government of India has proposed to bring about a law that would make it mandatory for internet firms and inter mediatories to provide real time information to security agencies in a bid to prevent a cyber strike by terrorists.

Indian agencies have often been caught off guard in the lead up to a terror strike as they do not have access to real time information about what is happening on the web space. Had Indian security agencies been given this information a lot of terror strikes could have been prevented. As the agencies point out that the crux of the problem begins with the internet and all the planning these days are taking place on the web space. The use of mobile technology which was extremely high a couple of years back has taken a back seat thanks to better mechanism in place which tracks conversations with much ease.

The Intelligence Bureau has suggested that it needs to have access to real time information pertaining to terrorism cases. The planning can be tracked with much ease and our response could be preventive when compared to reactive, the Intelligence Bureau feels. The case of David Headley is a very good example to show why India would need real time information regarding terror suspects. Today the NIA can only seek for further information about what has already happened. While this would help from the prosecution point of view, the fact of the matter is that damage had already been done. Had India had access to real time information from service providers or internet firms, they could have possibly prevented a huge attack such as 26/11.

While India studies the pros and cons of bringing about such a law, Cyber security expert Pavan Duggal explains the following. This proposal is emerging out of the need to tackle issues concerning national security in real time. Traditionally our approach has been more reactive in nature. It is only once an incident takes place that we investigate. By seeking real time data the government wants to be on par with pro effective efforts to stop or prevent on national security. Currently we have the IT Act of 2000 which has been amended in the year 2008. According to the amendment all service providers have been mandated to provide information as and when asked by the government of India. However the scope is not clear in terms of real time data and hence there is a dire need to come up with a new legislation or legal provision which can help the government seek real time data from these service providers of internet firms.

In the recent past, what Indian agencies have found is that the use of the web space has gone up ten fold. Apart from sending out mails to communicate regarding a terror strike, there have also been instances when terrorists have saved messages in their drafts in a bid to dodge being tracked. If the proposed law comes up, then suspects could be placed under the scanner and their activities tracked real time. It however cannot be considered to be a fool proof method, but there would be a fear among such persons that they are being constantly monitored.

For terror organisations it is very important that they go through the initial part of the operation without being noticed. If the proposed law falls in place then it would act as a deterrent to them. The new law which is being considered would not only help agencies track the planning but would also help them keep a check on other activities the most important of them being fund transfer. During a lull, terrorist groups continue to transfer funds and also carry out recruitment activities through the internet. This new law could help prevent such activities as well.

India today is probably very high on the security risk map where cyber terror is concerned. This has even been recognised by the European Union which recently invited India to take part in the cyber security and crime project. This project would require India to take part in a exercise which would involve counter terrorism on the cyber space.

While India would need time to study the pros and cons of such a new law, the biggest challenge would again be in respect to privacy. There is a careful need to study the law before bringing it out in the open. Duggal adds that the only problem would be that this law should have adequate safeguards to prevent a misuse by the government and security agencies. There needs to be a line drawn and the government should not seek real time data on each and every individual. There is a need to balance out the information being sought on suspects and also a need to protect the privacy and civil liberties of the ordinary citizen. There ought to be a proper monitoring committee and a set of guidelines that need to be followed just like in phone tapping cases before a requisition could be made to the internet firm to provide real time information on any person. Only once the committee are convinced should a go ahead be given to seek such information.

26/11-probe far from over

The Home Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan to be held in the month of January would discuss a series of issues, but the most important one would be the 26/11 chargesheet filed by the National Investigation Agency.

The chargesheet which names nine persons in it for their role in the 26/11 attack would be a subject matter for discussion. This chargesheet is not just about naming a few terrorists, but it has a far reaching implications since there are people from the Pakistan establishment who are named in it. The talk mainly would be about Major Iqbal and Major Samir Ali who had helped David Headley and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba during this horrific attack.

Right from day one each one was aware that the trial to be conducted on the basis of the NIA chargesheet would be in absentia as none of the accused are in the country. Many in the security establishment in India are very confident that not a single accused would be extradited for various reasons. In the case of David Headley, his legal team would quote the plea bargain which prevents an extradition. Speaking of Tawwahur Rana the entire matter is still unclear and the trial is expected to take a very long time. The rest of them like Ilyas Kashmiri, Sajid Mir are names India could continue to have in its records as there is no way that Pakistan would even attempt to hand them over.

Indian agencies are well aware of the outcome of even asking Pakistan for an extradition. However what they would be more interested in is to get Pakistan to acknowledge the fact that the likes of Major Samir and Iqbal took part in this attack. Although these names have been doing the rounds since the past 2 years, Pakistan has not acknowledged the fact that such persons even exist on their soil.

Going by the NIA chargesheet, it is clear that a large level of dependence regarding the Majors has been on the David Headley statement and confession. This however would not be enough to convince Pakistan as they would immediately counter it by stating that it is hard to believe the version that has been put out by one man (Headley). Pakistan has several times in the past discounted what Headley has said.

NIA sources however add that their investigation does not end with the filing of the chargesheet. There is more to be probed and we do expect that several more details would emerge in the days to come. There is no bar in filing additional charges. The most important aspect of the second phase of the investigation would be accessing Tawwahur Rana. The NIA has its questionnaire ready and is waiting for the completion of the trial. However in the interim they are trying to get the call records between Headley and the two Majors. While the NIA has a fair idea regarding the financial transactions that had been made, it would be able to detail the role by the two Majors better if it got access to the call records.

However this would be an extremely tough job. Firstly the NIA would need help from the NIA for the transcripts. Secondly the voice samples is something that only Pakistan would be able to provide and during the talks India would push for the same again.

The NIA is also in touch with Hotmail and Microsoft for details regarding the mailing trail between Headley and the rest. The mails have plenty of information but the most important aspect would be to get their hands on the voice samples. These not only would have the details of the calls between Headley and the Majors. This would also clear a major doubt regarding Sajid Mir, who India believes is part of the Pakistani government establishment. It would be interesting to see if they are able to match the voice of Mir who was on the phone line when the attack took place on 26/11.

26/11-The charges

The National Investigation Agency probing the 26/11 case has finally filed its chargesheet after investigating the case for nearly two years. It has been a rough ride for the NIA and the most difficult part for it was that none of the accused involved in this angle of the case are in India. However the NIA did with a great deal of difficulty manage to get access to David Headley and the man who had entered into a plea bargain with the Federal Bureau of Investigation did spill the beans out to the NIA on the basis of which this chargesheet was eventually filed.

The NIA has charged nine persons in this chargesheet under similar provisions which include waging war against the state and also under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967. If convicted then all these men face death or life sentence depending on how the prosecution is able to convince the court. None of the accused however are in the country and hence only a sentence can be handed out for the sake of record. However if at all India is able to extradite any of these persons then the sentence would be carried out.

The case against David Headley– Headley arrived in India for the first time on September 14 2006. He was under the guidance of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba top bosses, Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi while his handler was Sajid Majid. Apart from this he also reported to Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali.

While in India he was specifically commissioned to photograph targets specified to him. He then opened up an immigration office with a Parsi lady as his secretary. He went around the city and stayed in touch with high profile personalities so that there was absolutely no doubt on him. He started off his job by shooting videos of the Corporation building, Gateway of India, the Police headquarters, VT Railway station, Central Railway Station, Leopold Café. For the Taj he used Google earth and the entire route was also planned through this. The remaining targets too which were attacked was surveyed by him and he used his mobile camera most of the time to shoot videos.

Headley landed in India once again in the year 2008 in the month of April. He began operations at the Cuff Parade. He went on several boat rides and then reported to his handlers stating that this could be a good landing point for the attacks. In addition to this he also picked up red threads that were worn by Hindus which were finally handed over to the ten terrorists who wore it during the attack in a bid to cause a diversion.

Tawwahur Rana– According to the NIA, Tawwahur Rana was in the know of the entire operation. All through the David Headley journey of India, it was Rana who kept providing the support in form of documentations and other logistics to Headley. In fact Rana acted as the point man between the Lashkar and Headley according to the NIA. All the information that Headley passed on to Rana was being passed on to the Lashkar.

Rana and Headley who were college mates shared a comfortable bond. Rana was a deserter in the Pakistan army was roped in at a much later stage into this operation. He was part of the initial discussions involving Headley and the rest to plan out this part of the operation. Rana who had also set up an immigration office helped Headley process his papers and a passport thus facilitating his travel to India.

Hafiz Saeed– The big daddy of the Lashkar figures in every chargesheet pertaining to the 26/11 attack. According to the NIA, he is the over all in charge of the attack and he deliberated the various meetings that the Lashkar operatives and the ISI had in connection with this attack. Hafiz Saeed was all through in the know of the operation and he had also planned an attack on the Shiv Sena.

Zaki-ur-Rehman-Lakhvi– This man who is second to Saeed and who is also in charge of operations of the Lashkar is also one of the very few persons who knew all the details regarding the attack. He was part of the various meetings that were held in Pakistan. It was through Lakhvi and his guidance that the handlers for the 26/11 attack were stationed. Moreover according to the NIA, he could be considered to be one of the masterminds in the attack since he was through with this entire plot.

Sajid MajidThis is the man who worked most closely with David Headley. He was the handler for Headley and all through the operation Headley reported to him. This man who is the assistant to Abdur Rehman Makki, a top Lashkar commander is also the foreign affairs incharge for the outfit. Headley who started off by training for a Kashmir battle was shifted to the 26/11 operation and since day one he was under Sajid Majid. All operations, videos and material provided by Headley were passed on to Sajid which was in turn passed on to the operation heads in the Lashkar. Sajid and Headley kept in touch through phone and also emails which led up to the attack.

Sajid Majid also known as Sajid Mir is a senior operative of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. He was in charge of India operations during the attack and is also known as a global terrorist as today he heads the international wing of the outfit.

He was one of the key planners of the attack and the key person handling Headley. Even on his Interpol look out notice it is stated that he had helped Headley with financial and logistic support to conduct surveys of the targets. Apart from helping Headley he also briefed the ten terrorists who finally carried out the attack. He was the voice which guided the terrorists during the assault. According to the investigation he was present in the control room at Karachi at the time of the attack and had even prompted the terrorists to carry out a hostage crisis and secure the release of Ajmal Kasab who was arrested on the first day of the attack.

He had visited India on a number of ocassions prior to this attack and had even come down as a cricket fan. According to the investigators it is believed that he had come to scout targets and suggest the same to the men on the field who finally executed and planned the 26/11 attack.

Major Iqbal and Sameer– These two men who probably played a crucial role in the attack are insiders in the Pakistani establishment. Before Headley and Rana started reporting to Sajid Majid, it was these two majors who were part of the ISI who trained Headley in particular. Iqbal who is a non commissioned officer trained Headley on gathering intelligence and also on how to take cover while conducting a survey for a big operation. Sameer on the other hand taught Headley the use of technology and science while undertaking such an operation. The finance part of the operation was also managed by the two majors who passed on 25000 US dollars to Headley for the attack.

Ilyas Kashmiri– The role of Kashmiri may not be a direct one in the 26/11 attack. However the meetings he had with Headley after his 26/11 survey were all aimed at India. While the two along with Rana also discussed the Mickey Mouse project, there was also a specific plan of undertaking the Karachi Project which aimed at mass destruction on India soil. Kashmiri had planned on using the skills possessed by Headley to survey more targets in India in order to execute the Karachi project which was a composition of fidayeen styled attacks and bomb blasts by home grown terror outfits.

Kashmiri and Headley chalked up plans of carrying out attacks on the National Defence College apart from targets in Goa and also Pune. Further attacks were also planned on Taj Presidency, Naval Air Station, World Trade Centre, the Siddhi Vinayak Temple and also the Bombay Stock Exchange.

All through the investigation the major part of the focus by the NIA has been to nail the ISI which had a major role to play in this attack. It is very evident through the investigations and what the NIA has found that all along the ISI played a very major role in this attack and had also tried and facilitated future attacks on the India soil. The fact that two of its officers were directly named by Headley during the investigation is also a testimony to how important a role the spy agency played during the attack.

This chargesheet will now be studied by the court. The NIA would also make more formal requests to extradite the accused who are lodged in the US and also in Pakistan. However this would not be a deterrent for the trial to commence and additional charges could be added on during the course of the trial as there is a provision to file an additional chargesheet which the NIA would most likely do.

NIA files 26/11 chargesheet

The National Investigation Agency after probing the 26/11 case for nearly two years has filed its chargesheet against David Headley and others before the Special Court in Patiala House, New Delhi today.

The chargesheet also names Hafiz Saeed, Tawwahur Rana, Ilyas Kashmiri, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi among others.

The chargesheet also comprises the names of Abdul Rehman Hashmi, Major Iqbal, Major Samir Ali and Sajid Majid . The common charge against all these persons is that they were waging a war against the country and also under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

Now with the chargesheet being filed, the trial against these persons although in absentia could officially begin.

The 26/11 chargesheet- Many mysteries will still remain

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.

Aseemanand and the money trail

The National Investigating Agency which is investigating the Mecca Masjid blasts of Hyderabad is currently on the money trail that led up to the execution of these attacks. Although the National Investigating Agency has found that it was Swami Aseemanand who handed over the money to execute the blasts, it is clear that he was not the man who was primarily responsible for raising those funds.

Although investigators have been looking into the flow of funds into the Ashram that he ran, they however add that he was entrusted with the task of stocking the funds and not raising them. The conspirators felt that it was best to stock the money in the ashram since they are exempted from any normal inspection. Moreover it was felt that the money which would be stocked in the ashram could be passed off as a donation and there would be no real suspicion on the same.

Today the NIA says that they have found evidence to show that Aseemanand had handed over Rs 25000 to Sunil Joshi to carry out the Mecca Masjid blasts. Similar transactions had been made during the Malegaon and also the Samjautha Express blasts, the investigators also pointed out.

The money trail into these incidents have not been nailed as yet by investigators. Probe agencies have been back and forth on this aspect and no real break through has been found where the money trail is concerned. It has been established that it was the ashram being run at the Dangs in Gujarat was the point where all the money landed. There were several like minded operatives who were part of this operation and each one had a small role to play in raising the funds. However they all wanted Aseemanand to handle the money as they felt that the trail would never lead up to him. There is a lot of money that has come into his ashram through donations as he was undertaking some work for the tribals. It is pretty hard to find out what money was finally used to execute these blasts.

Probe agencies prior to the NIA had claimed when asked that the most of the money for these operations came through donations. Moreover these persons ran odd businesses through which they raised money. In the Nanded blasts case it was found that the accused persons were running a gym and the money that was made through that was finally used for the flop Nanded operation. The police have however not found any similar modus operandi in the Mecca Masjid or Samjautha blasts case.

The police are also looking to see if the money which legitimately came into these places was diverted for such terror operations. This would be part of our investigation the NIA says as nothing very concrete regarding the trail has come up as yet. All Aseemanand’s probe has revealed is that he had paid Rs 25000 to Sunil Joshi in the presence of a businessman by the name Bharath Bhai at a place called Valsad in Gujarat.

The primary focus of the NIA at the moment is on the Mecca Masjid blasts case. They are trying to find if there is some local help that helped arrange the money and also the logistics. There has been allegations by Muslim organisations in Hyderabad that there are some Hindu groups which have taken a violent turn and have helped in organising these attacks. The police which has taken into account these allegations have however not found a dedicated module in Hyderabad which could have helped carry out this blast. There may be one or two persons who were in the know of this operation, but it was largely staged and planned by the Sunil Joshi gang which operated mainly out of Northern India, the police also claim.

The NIA claims that the Ajmer/Malegaon/Samjautha express attacks were all part of the same module. In the days to come a couple more arrests could be expected and this we hope would lead us up to the money trail, investigators also point out.

Terror- what is in store for South India?

A major conspiracy is brewing in South India and the Intelligence Bureau, National Investigating Agency and local police are studying this case. There have been many incidents in the past couple of months which have led investigators to believe that there is a coming together of various outfits to wreck havoc in Southern India.

Firstly calls to Pakistan were intercepted from the prisons of Kerala. Then there was a bomb found on the route that L K Advani had taken during his recently concluded yatra. This was followed by the police tracking calls being made from a Bangalore jail. The latest of the incidents was the arrest of a key Indian Mujahideen operative along with his associates from Chennai.

The arrest of these youth is probably first of the concrete actions taken by the investigating agencies after calls from the jails were intercepted. Investigators are not trying to join the dots taking all the above mentioned incidents into account. Today they have found that terror groups are trying and combining several like minded outfits and creating a formidable force in Southern India. What has been found so far is that outfits such as the Indian Mujahideen, Al-Badr and the Al-Umma are joining hands in order to carry out terror strikes in Southern India.

Although the arrest of Mohammad Ishrath Khan has revealed that he was in the know of a conspiracy to carry out a terror strike in Bangalore, he however had no direct connection to this incident. Hailing from New Delhi, he was down in Chennai to procure weapons which gave the police an indication that a terror strike was being planned in Nothern India as well.

The calls that were made from jail is what set the ball rolling. They were a series of calls that were being made to Pakistan and also parts of Uttar Pradesh. The investigators are still studying the transcripts in detail and so far have found that the calls were being made about creating a major force in South India and also carrying out a deadly strike in Bangalore.

The Indian Mujahideen which has its strongest presence in Karnataka was trying to rope in both the Al-Umma and the Al-Badr which are stronger in parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. All these outfits are ideologically similar and hence the coming together of these outfits was not exactly a difficult job. Moreover there has been a constant tussle to set the network in Tamil Nadu. Barring a couple of incidents there has really not been much of activity in Tamil Nadu. Terror groups have been testing the waters in so far as Tamil Nadu. They have been gradually building up their modules on a smaller scale.

During the investigations the police found that they wanted to set up more modules in Tamil Nadu while they would continue to send the recruits in from Karnataka to strenghthen the base. Kerala which has been considered to be a play ground for these groups would continue to be used to fund operations and also transit point for arms and ammunition.

The calls that have been made from jail will hold the key to these investigations. It is clear that those terrorists who have been in jail were making the calls to Pakistan to discuss the new operations that they have been planning in Southern India. Apart from the calls that were made by hawala operatives from the Kerala jail, the NIA has also been probing the calls that were made from the Bangalore jail. The NIA apart from questioning two members Mohammad Hussain and Fahad both of whom belong to the Al-Badr faction have also detained two more youth who were in regular contact with these men.

The IB says that Tamil Nadu is a state that one must watch out for. First it was the underworld that penetrated into this state and this was followed by terror groups. It had become a major drug transit point and later on fake currency too was pumped in. The Al-Umma in particular has its roots in Tamil Nadu. This group which shot into the limelight post Babri Masjid has been planning several strikes in the state. However there was a major crack down on the outfit and it was weakened to a large extent. Today they are using the services of both the Indian Mujahideen and also the Al-Badr to improvise their position in the region. The recent plot on the Advani yatra route is also being attributed to the Al-Umma.

The crack down two days back at Chennai also goes on to show that these outfits have been targeting youth in colleges. In all the IB and the Tamil Nadu police picked up four persons which include three engineering student and one MBA student. They were picked up along with their uncle who hails from Delhi. This is a cause for concern since penetration into colleges has always had a bad effect on national security. The idea and motive is clear and they are forming a force with the help of educated youth so that attacks have more precision. The first wave of attacks carried out by the Indian Mujahideen had caused a lot of destruction and this was primarily to do with the fact that it had been planned to perfection by educated youth.

NIA sources say that there is still a while left for the investigations to be completed. We have a fair idea of what is being planned and it appears that they have intentionally used cell phones from jails to plan future operations as one usually does not suspect such operations being planned out of jails. It is clear that the message had come from Pakistan and on the basis of this some youth were sent to meet these terrorists in jail and were told to plan the operation from there.

Headley- First for the cash and then the ideology

A Pro Publica investigation termed David Headley as a double agent working for both the CIA and the ISI. While India’s National Investigating Agency continues to look for more information on Headley, the fact is that the information roll on the man has come to a stand still.

The question that India is trying to answer is whether Headley was serving both the CIA and the ISI simultaneously? The NIA’s version of this story is that Headley moved towards the ISI after being dumped by the CIA. Headley was always a rogue and enjoyed the high life and hence did all his work for money. The ideology which he has been talking about is not entirely true and even during the NIA interrogation of the man it was revealed that he was more into it for the money.

Headley started off by passing on information to the CIA regarding the happenings in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. However a couple of years later, the CIA decided to dump him since they felt he was turning rogue and did not have his loyalties in one place. He got in contact with the drug lords in Afghanistan and started working closely with them. At this point the CIA did not find him to be utility and dropped him.

However what Headley had possessed was a set of skills which attracted the ISI who were watching him all through. He managed to get away as he had the CIA tag with him and even the ISI was afraid to act against him. However once he was dumped by the CIA, the ISI was quick to swoop in and utilise his services.

The ISI used the services of Sajid Mir to rope in Headley into their fold. Mir was considered to be a specialist at roping in foreign agents and hence he was assigned the task of speaking with Headley. Headley’s role in the ISI did not commence immediately with big assignments. They tested him and continued to seek information about the US for which he was paid money. He continued to be an informant. However the ISI was cautious and kept a tab on him as they did not want him to turn rogue. They brainwashed him and made him believe that he was doing this for the community. This probably was the turning point for Headley and he decided to become a loyal soldier of both the ISI and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.

By this time he had gone completely out of the CIA radar. He was never perceived as a threat to the US. The ISI was however cautious while dealing with Headley and had specifically told him not to rub the US agencies on the wrong side. They were aware that holding an American citizenship and also a passport from the same country gave him a great deal of immunity which helped in his travel to India. Investigators say that the US knew about the existence of this man, but did not perceive him as a big threat. What the US was unaware of was the ideological turn that Headley took. They never expected him to become a loyal servant and always believed that he would do anything for money.

Headley interacted a lot during these days with the likes of Mir and also Ilyas Kashmiri. The interest that he had with money had gradually reduced a great deal and he began speaking about the need of being a devout Muslim and attacking enemy nations particularly India. Even during the questioning by the NIA, he showed utter contempt towards India. He had also gone on to say that he had no problems with the Indians but thanks to incidents such as the Babri Masjid or the Godhra carnage he had begun to hate the system as a result of which he agreed to help Pakistan carry out the 26/11 attack.

After severing his ties with the US in the late 2004, he went completely out of the radar and all those who had dealt with him in the past thought he had become history. None of them even realised what threat this man posed and the kind of skills he had to lead a massive attack such as 26/11 which claimed over 150 lives.

Sources in the Indian investigating team say that today getting him for another round of questioning is next to an impossible task. The extent of information that we have managed to get out of him ends here and it looks like a distant possibility whether we would be able to question him once again. We have been depending on questioning Tawwahur Rana, but that it likely to take a lot of time as the matter is still pending before the court. There are a couple of unanswered questions such as the use of local help and the people Headley met in India and these answers could possibly be given by Tawwahur Rana.