Bracing for more attacks, investigators struggle to crack terror outfits

July 27th, 2008 - 2:40 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party
By Murali Krishnan
New Delhi, July 27 (IANS) As a nationwide hunt gets underway Sunday for terrorists responsible for the back-to-back attacks first in Bangalore, the country’s IT hub, and then the 16 synchronised bombings that ripped through Gujarat’s main city of Ahmedabad killing nearly 40 people, the security establishment is bracing for more terror strikes. The fact that the last three terror attacks have occurred in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states - Rajasthan (in Jaipur in May), Karnataka and now Gujarat - has made investigators apprehensive that more could be in the offing.

“It is for this reason that we have tightened the security system in Madhya Pradesh (BJP-ruled) and even Bihar (where BJP is part of the government),” said a top intelligence official, who refused to be named considering the sensitivity of his position.

The well-coordinated terrorist attacks across India in the last year have led the security establishment to conclude that the perpetrators are the same, but it finds itself lost on how to crack the backbone of this new breed of terrorists who are striking at will.

The modus operandi in the last few attacks has been disturbingly similar - bombs placed on bicycles and in tiffin boxes to create havoc leaving behind a bloody trail of death and destruction.

Nearly 550 people have been killed in 11 well-coordinated terrorist attacks across India since the 2005 Diwali-eve bombings in the national capital, but no case has been resolved and not one terrorist arrested.

“That will always be the case with India’s intelligence as it is floundering. The question to ask is what has been done since the last blast. In a simple word, nothing. You must make things happen,” Ajay Sahni, who edits the South Asia Intelligence Review and is an authority on subcontinental terrorism, told IANS.

Sahni argues that more needs to be done to augment police capacities and improve intelligence systems.

“There is a 20 percent deficit of police personnel across the country against the sanctioned strength. In Orissa alone, the deficit has gone up to a staggering 40 percent and vacancies have not been filled since 1980! How will we improve hinterland security and shore up intelligence systems?” queries Sahni.

Though authorities admit that the terrorist outfits are getting increasingly sophisticated and appear linked to one another, investigations invariably reach a dead end after the initial leads to track down the guilty.

After the eight multiple blasts in Bangalore on Friday, security expert B. Raman told an international radio station that the serial blasts in three Uttar Pradesh towns in November last year and the Jaipur blasts on May 13 had a pattern and bore a distinct signature.

“All of them (blasts) are coordinated and combined. But police in each state conduct their own investigation and so it makes it difficult to collate crucial evidence which is important to crack these cases,” he argued.

Central intelligence agencies are also not convinced that the terror outfit, Indian Mujahideen, was responsible for the blasts and maintain it could well be a red herring with the purpose to throw them off the real trail.

The worst attacks till date has been the synchronised attacks on Mumbai’s commuter trains in July 2006 that claimed 187 lives. The twin bomb blasts in Hyderabad in August 2007 left 40 dead.

A bomb also ripped through the Samjhauta Express plying from India to Pakistan in 2006, killing many Pakistanis too. There have also been blasts in Ludhiana in Punjab, Malegaon in Maharashtra and at the shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer in Rajasthan.

Time and again Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has lamented that core policing was wanting in the country and spoken of the need to fill up the many vacancies in police forces if India was to face up to the new age terror.

He has also stressed the importance of sprucing up the intelligence machinery by proper staffing - the main weakness cited by experts.

“There has to be some coherence in the ‘national response’ to terrorism and only then can we devise protocols, strategies and tactics for an appropriate response,” says Sahni.

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