The Madhya Pradesh module of the Students Islamic Movement of India today can be considered to be the most active and dangerous. A lot of the onus falls on this module now that the last module of the Indian Mujahideen has been busted. There was a war cry by its members who were produced before the court two weeks back. They had openly expressed support to the Al-Qaeda and Taliban while chanting anti Narendra Modi slogans.
Now this module of the SIMI is different and as per the interrogation of its members, it acts independently and does not report to the ISI. Now this is not some kind of a ploy by the ISI to keep away. It is just that the SIMI has moved away on its own and would prefer to be associated with the Taliban or the Al-Qaeda and carry out terror strikes. Like the Taliban and AQ, the SIMI too finds the interference by the ISI too much and many of them beleive that the ISI is not vocal against the Americans who are in Afghanistan. In fact the ISI tries and prevents any direct confrontation with the US.
When the government of India is under a transition phase, the worry for every security agency in the country is immense.The regrouping fears of groups such as the Students Islamic Movement of India (radical version) and the Indian Mujahideen are higher due to two factors- When groups are down and out, they tend to come back harder and secondly they find it easier to regroup when there is a transition between two governments.
These groups do expect that the next government in New Delhi is most likely a BJP led one. Between the Indian Mujahideen and the SIMI, the latter has a greater score to settle since it was banned by the BJP. The indications that the SIMI is trying to make a comeback is evident in the various interrogation reports of Yasin Bhatkal, Tehsin Akthar, Waqas Ahmed among others.
There is a radical version of the SIMI which has been trying to stage a comeback. This group is headed by Safdar Nagori who currently is lodged in jail. Right from planning political attacks and filling up their kitty with ample arms and ammunition, the SIMI is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that they strike big. An intelligence Bureau official points out that this was bound to happen. The Indian Mujahideen and the SIMI are the one and the same in terms of ideology. Now with the IM down, it would be the SIMI which will carry forward the mantle. This would help the IM reduce its heat and regroup, the officer also points out.
When Abdul Karim Tunda, the top Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative involved in 40 different incidents of terror in India reveals that there are around 130 operatives in India especially at Madurai and Kerala, it is a cause for concern. The orange bearded man who was picked up on the Nepal border was the most wanted man for several years.
During his early years, he focused more up north but since the past 7 to 8 years the entire focus of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had shifted down South, he tells the police who interrogated him. The networks down South are extremely deep rooted and the Lashkar had decided to focus a lot in this part of the country as they saw a potential and a set of extremely dedicated youth here, Tunda says.
Tunda says that there are around 130 youth between the age group of 18 to 30 who are part of their network. None of them have been actively involved in any attack, but at any given time they could be summoned as each one of them has been trained and are ready. Although Tunda does not spell out the exact number of operatives from each place, he estimates that nearly 80 of them are from South and are concentrated more in Madurai and various parts of Kerala.
Tehsin Akthar who was arrested a couple of days back by the Indian agencies has directly blamed the Students Islamic Movement of India for the Patna attack. It was a complete operation of the Students Islamic Movement of India and we are no longer directly linked with them, Tehsin told his interrogators.
He made some new revelations regarding the SIMI and said that a man by the name Hyder runs an important module in Bihar which undertook the Patna blasts which targeted Narendra Modi he said.
Our association with the SIMI is very less these days and they have enough and more independent modules which are functional he said. Narendra Modi and L K Advani are their primary targets and the last of the interactions I had with Hyder had revealed this.
Manzar Imam Mohammad who was picked up from Ranchi will be taken on a transit warrant to Kochi in Kerala by the National Investigation Agency which hopes to bust the Vagamon terror training camp case. Although his role will be probed in the Hyderabad blasts case, the NIA expects more information on the manner in which he set up camps in Kerala for the Students Islamic Movement of India.
A resident of Ranchi in Jharkhand, Imam carried a reward of Rs 20000 on his head. According to the NIA, he was instrumental in setting up a camp of the SIMI in Vagamon, Mundakayam under the Kotayam police station limits. At this camp, Imam along with several other cadres of the SIMI trained in target practice, preparation of explosives and also tough terrain driving. The NIA says that he was part of this training camp since the year 2007.
“… Here we are back – the Mujahideen of India – the terrorists on the disbelievers – the radicals of Islam – after our triumphant and successful assault at Jaipur, once again calling you all, who disbelieve in Allah and His Messenger Muhammad to accept Islam and bear witness that there is none to be worshipped except Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Accept Islam and save yourselves.
This is just one of the mails that was sent out by the Indian Mujahideen prior to the deadly Gujarat blasts which wrecked havoc. Today the Indian Mujahideen, probably one of India’s deadliest home grown terror outfit has been banned and sanctions slapped by the United States of America. It has today been designated as a foreign terror outfit since it maintains close links with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and other Pakistan based outfits.
The Indian Mujahideen was designed in a manner to carry out attacks on Indian soil and more importantly all its cadres were of Indian origin. It was a perfect ploy by the ISI to ensure that terror attacks continued unabated in India without a finger being pointed at Pakistan. Today Indian Intelligence agencies and other police wings welcome the decision by the US to designate the IM as a foreign terror outfit. It is an extremely important decision since today the top leadership of the IM is not in India. Riyaz Bhatkal, Yaseen Bhatkal, Amir Reza Khan(only one of Pakistan origin), Abdus Subhan, Assadullah Akthar and a few others are all out of the country. The Indian agencies were finding it extremely difficult to apprehend these persons thanks to international laws and today with the US slapping sanctions, the job becomes easier. There are a large number of the IM operatives who are settled in the Gulf and this move by the US would make it easier to bring them down to India. However a concern that would always remain is regarding some of the cadres who are at Pakistan and no international law is good enough when it comes to dealing with that country, IB officials point out.
The US move has also given Indian agencies another reason to smile about. Although the ISI had been claiming that the IM is an outfit born and brought up in India, the US order also makes it clear that this outfit has direct links with the Lashkar. This only vindicates India’s stand that any act of terror in India has the blessings of Pakistan based outfits.
The Inception: It is a well known fact that the Indian Mujahideen is just an off shoot of the banned Student’s Islamic Movement of India. In fact it could be termed as the radical SIMI. Almost the entire leadership were part of the SIMI at one point in time. Abdus Subhan himself was a magazine editor when he was in SIMI. Riyaz too was connected with the SIMI as an activist before he decided to become part of the core committee of the IM. The first time that the IM came to the limelight was during the court blasts at Uttar Pradesh in 2007. Although a mail was sent out claiming responsibility for the attacks, no one really took the IM seriously. However what followed was a spate of attacks later. The Jaipur bombings of 2008 is when the IM actually made its entry into the big world of terror. A chilling mail which was sent out after the attack is what made everyone sit up and take notice of this outfit.
After this there were a series of attacks and the infamous operation Bangalore Ahmedabad Delhi or Operation BAD was carried out. The mails that were sent out following those attacks only went to show the kind of arrogance that this group operated with. In fact the mails were more of a challenge and the mail during the Ahmedabad blasts was sent out five minutes prior to the blast. Some in the IB says that it is this arrogance which did them in finally and today they find themselves on a very weak footing.
Acts of terror:
Uttar Pradesh court blasts of 2007 November
Jaipur bombing of May 2008
Bangalore serial blasts on July 25 2008
Ahmedabad bombings on July 26 2008
Delhi bombings of 13 September 2008
Pune bombings of 2010
Jama Masjid Attack of 2010
Varanasi bombing of 2011
The 13/7 blasts (yet to be verified by the police)
Bombay serial blasts-2008
Amir Reza Khan of Pakistan who is the only non Indian in the outfit is considered to be the founder of the group. Originally from the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, he was a faithful commander and was later handed over the responsibility of setting up this outfit.
Safdar Nagori is another man associated with this outfit. Although he is credited with establishing the radical SIMI, it is said that larger plan hatched by him was to be part of the IM. However before the outfit could take shape he was arrested.
Riyaz Bhatkal who is still elusive was one of the key members of the organization. Hailing from the coastal Bhatkal town he is said to be one of the first members of the outfit. Today however there is a lurking doubt whether he is alive or not. Although some gangster had claimed to have eliminated him, there is absolutely no confirmation what so ever regarding his death.
Abdus Subhan who was originally a magazine editor in the SIMI became a central figure of the outfit. He is said to have set up the technical cell of the IM which eventually hacked into un secured wifi networks and sent out mails. Although those who knew him say way too much has been made out of his capabilities, Indian agencies believe that he is a crucial character in the outfit. Today Subhan is said to be hiding in Pakistan.
Mansoor Peerbhouy is today under arrest. He however could be credited with setting up the technical wing under the guidance of Subhan. A techie who worked with several reputed companies, he in fact after his arrest gave the police all the answers regarding the manner in which the IM mailing system worked.
Basically what the IM did was irk the police no end. All their mails and communication always took a dig at the police and the slogan was clear, “ catch us if you can.” The police did raise the bar and if one notices the manner in which the IM has been handled in the past two years one could say that they were hunted down. The real turning point was however the Batla House encounter. In a major battle between the Delhi police and some boys alleged to be IM members, it was the police who had the final say. However there is a great deal of controversy surrounding this encounter and many cry foul stating that it was fake. While this was the downfall of the IM some feel that this could be one of the biggest excuses on which they would plot their come back as well.
This is something that has been worrying agencies no end. There has been a slump for the moment, but the fact that the top leadership is still elusive gives out worrying signals. The recruitment drive as of now is very slow. It is hard to say whether this is the correct picture or is it just a ploy to keep the heat at bay. Very slow movement has been witnessed especially in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Delhi and also Pune. Although there is nothing significant the police are not taking chances. There are still several members who are out straying and they have been coming together and carrying out smaller attacks. In addition to this there are also several intercepts to show that the top leadership is very much in touch with groups such as the Lashkar and are planning a come back. It may not happen anytime soon, but they will surely make an attempt, a police officer said.
Who planted the bomb at the Delhi High Court. Investigators today say everyone is a suspect. The Indian Mujahideen, the Students Islamic Movement of India, the Harkat-ul-Jihadi- the role of all these outfits are being probed.
There is a lot that is at stake for the National Investigating Agency in particular which has taken the lead in probing this case. While one could say that the David Headely angle to the 26/11 probe was their biggest assignment till date, it could also be argued that most of the leads in that case were provided by the United States of America. However in the Delhi blasts case the NIA had to start from scratch and moreover they have to constantly deal with multiple agencies in order to carry on with this probe.
Today there are almost 500 police personnel looking into the Delhi blasts case. A source in the National Investigating Agency says that they are making a headway into the probe, but it is still too early to pin point as to who carried out the attack.
What has put the probe agencies on the back foot today is that they are still unable to find a motive behind the blast. The Indian Mujahideen, the Students Islamic Movement of India, the Harkat-ul-Jihadi- all these outfits are very capable of carrying out an attack, but the question is why would they do it? The Students Islamic Movement of India in particular may try its best to avoid a blast outside the judiciary since they are battling a case seeking a lifting of the ban. The Indian Mujahideen on the other hand has been trying to get back into the picture, but the fact is that they are really not up to it at the moment. Would they want the heat on them when they are trying to regroup is the question that is being asked. The HuJI on the other hand does appear to have a motive and have announced in a big way their India operations. However would they carry out an attack on a smaller scale and increase the heat on them is also another question.
Soures both in the NIA as well as the Intelligence Bureau are of the opinion that not always is it necessary to look at a motive behind such attacks. At the moment how we see it is that is for sure a distraction tactic, but then again the question arises who would want to distract what. Hence these probe agencies are also looking into a political motive behind the blast, because the fact remains that a lot of other contreversies surrounding various politicians had been diverted after the Delhi blasts. Right from the Varanasi blast there has been a pattern and such attacks have always managed to divert a crisis for a bit of time. We are not saying that this could be the angle to it, but it is also being explored the investigation team points out.
A source in the IB says that it would be too early and unfair to say that the police are groping in the dark. It does take time for them to find clues and they are studying the pattern since the Varanasi blast. The fact however remains that the Varanasi blasts, the 13/7 attack and now the Delhi blasts continue to be unsolved mysteries. While conducting the investigations into all these three attacks what they have realized is that the modules of terror are asleep at the moment. There is no sign to show that any of these modules had been activated during these periods. Locally the police have not been able to find a direct link into any of these blasts. There have just been a spate of arrests till date on suspicion, but without exaggerating facts nothing really has come out from any of these arrests.
While no leads seem to appear there is also a lot of confusion till date regarding the substances used in the Delhi bomb. The forensic teams have given contradicting versions of the subtances and the fact is that they are finding it hard to trace the PETN which was initially suspected to be used in the bomb. However the the investigating team have sent it for another round of sampling since it is hard to trace PETN which takes a plastic form when used in a bomb. Investigating agencies meanwhile are working on the possible leads they could get from whatever material has been found in the bomb. They are trying to track the sourcing of the PETN and also the ammonium nitrate that has been used in the bomb.
The other aspect that is being studied is the finances used for this blast. Overall it appears that it was an operation which could not have cost more than Rs 30000. Take for instance the Bangalore serial blasts which had over 9 bombs in it. In the words of the prime accused T Nasir this entire operation cost him just Rs 40000. Hence this is not big money and could have been sourced locally also, the police believe.
Investigating agencies are also looking for some leads outside the country and are in touch with their counterparts especially in the Gulf. Investigators believe that some of the operatives of both the SIMI and the IM are holed up in these countries. Right from the days of the Varanasi blasts they have been trying to track IM operative Assadullah Akthar, but have not got much success. There is also a look out notice against 13 other IM operatives who have gone missing in the past two years.
In addition to this the Indian IB is in touch with the various other intelligence agencies of both the US and also Russia and are trying to pick up leads on whether there was any movement of terrorists internationally in connection with this blast.
Security experts say that it is essential that these series of blasts right from Varanasi are solved since it is important for the security of the nation. A senior police official from Maharashtra pointed out that the intelligence gathering on the ground is very weak. It is not sufficient to look for larger leads. The movement is taking place on the ground and the fact that no suspicious movement had been reported goes on to show that the sources on the ground are not strong enough. There is no clarity at all today and this gives terror outfits an advantage today and this would tempt them to carry out more such attacks since they realize that the system is weak. There is a need for collective intelligence and the sharing of the same between states apart from strenghthening local intelligence in order to curb such activities, the official also pointed out.
The Karnataka Forum for Dignity- is this a disaster waiting to happen? A link with the Students Islamic Movement of India and then a probe whether this forum was connected to the ISI? These are lurking questions as the police spend day and night to probe the antecedents of this outfit and its members.
Officers on the job and sources in the Intelligence Bureau say that there is a lot of activity which can be noticed on part of this organisation. The ultimate goal of this organisation is to have a political status, but the worry is that they do not want it to be turn into another political wing with terror affiliations. We would want to curb all activities before it turns political, because once that happens then it becomes virtually impossible to handle them due to political links.
A couple of months back the probe against the members of this organisation was on in full swing. The Bangalore police and the IB were jointly probing this outfit, but today what one notices is that the probe has slowed down. This is mainly because they are unable to track down the prime suspect and the mastermind behind this outfit- Naved Ahmed. This man who heads the outfit has gone missing for the past couple of months. The strategy adopted by him was very clear and that was to commit crimes and fund the organisation.
According to the investigation, Ahmed is a habitual offender and specialises at robbery and kidnapping. The money that has been obtained by this is funded into the organisation, investigations have shown. The police say that Ahmed will be a prized catch in order to curb the growth of this organisation. In addition to this he has three more accomplices who are on the run and they are trying to nab these persons too.
The police say that they are doing everything it takes to nab him and even issued a red corner alert with the help of the Interpol in order to secure his arrest.
While this is one part of this organisation, the bigger concern is that the number of members is growing very fast thanks to the ideology that this organisation is spreading. The formation is very much on the lines of the Indian Mujahideen or the SIMI after the ban. While the IM and the SIMI targeted the educated youth, the KFD on the other hand has members from a very low rung of the society. The IB says that the youth are being lured into this outfit even today and it appears to be the same ideology that both SIMI and the IM have used. Community, religion and of course the atrocities that have been meted out are the primary tricks that are used to lure the youth in.
The police say that an outfit such as the KFD should not be viewed only as a Karnataka problem, but over the days it is growing to become a menace for Southern India. The police are studying the links the outfit has with some political groups in Kerala. They say that the links are being established as of now, but they do find a very close affiliation to the politics in Kerala. There are traces of this organisation in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu as well. In Karnataka the police have found this organisation to be strongest in Mangalore, Mysore and Bangalore. What the police are looking into is whether the members of this outfit have had links with ISI agents in the South since there are instances to show that there has been a money trail through hawala operators.
What the investigation has also shown is that the primary agenda of the outfit is to grow politically. The idea is to get into the political main stream and hence they are increasing their man power in this regard. Both the police and the IB says that the growth is worrying and in a bid to achieve their goals, some of the members are capable of relying on the support of any outfit. This is a major cause for concern looking at the reliance they have on Kerala, which is a hub for the ISI. We want to ensure that this outfit does not grow anymore and the rate at which they continue with their activity is causing a nightmare for the police.
The ideology adopted by this outfit shows very clearly that they are hitting on emotive points to further their cause. It may not be as polished as the SIMI or the IM, but a crime is a crime a police official said.
Today according to investigators, KFD shows traces of affiliations with some terror groups in India. It is a typical case of what happened with the SIMI and how the ISI used it to become a primary striking force in India. The same is happening to the KFD and before they make inroads politically, we need to shut it down. The task ahead is tough since the outfit is very organised at the moment. They have dedicated district and city offices with a president, organising secretary and treasurers. The police say it is one of the fastest growing outfits in South India with nearly 40000 members today.