Indian Mujahideen only half busted, still has fangs to strike (Special)

October 10th, 2008 - 3:37 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 10 (IANS) A massive crackdown has seriously dented the widespread network of the shadowy Indian Mujahideen (IM), blamed for the terror attacks in Indian cities, but investigators say a large number of jehadis are still at large with the potential to strike at will.An unprecedented suppression of the secretive outfit has led to some 35 arrests across the country, almost all of them educated young men and united by a common desire to seek vengeance to perceived wrongs done to India’s mammoth Muslim minority.

A slightly larger number of suspected terrorists are still at large. And, according to sources who spoke to IANS on the condition of anonymity, they are frequently changing hideouts to avoid getting caught.

“We are looking for at least 15-20 people for their role in the (Sep 13) Delhi blasts,” said a top intelligence official. “Similarly, other states have identified many for their involvement in other terrorist attacks.

“The number belonging to IM and still on the run could be over 50. They may regroup. They have the potential to carry out fresh bombings.

“But we are confident that the entire network will be nipped in the bud soon as all the state police forces and the Intelligence Bureau are probably for the first time coordinating on a war footing,” the official said.

Arrests have taken place in scores of cities, ranging from Mumbai and New Delhi to Malegaon in Maharashtra and Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh. But authorities are warning against a premature declaration of victory.

Mumbai Police Commissioner Hassan Gafoor has said the entire Indian Mujahideen outfit has not been wiped out. “There are more members (out there).”

Police now claim that the group - a loosely knit collation of self-made jehadists bound together by ideological affiliation and also personal ties - was behind almost every terror attack in the country since 2005.

The Indian Mujahideen’s name first surfaced in November last year after the synchronised bombings in the court complexes of Varanasi, Faizabad and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh that killed 13 people.

The attackers then sent an email to the media claiming responsibility and signalling their grand arrival as homegrown terrorists. Similar messages were emailed to the media before or after serial bomb blasts in Jaipur (May), Ahmedabad (July) and New Delhi (September). These killed a total of 142 people.

The Indian Mujahideen was not taken seriously till the Gujarat Police made some 10 arrests after the Ahmedabad blasts.

According to Joint Commissioner of Mumbai Police Rakesh Maria, the name of the group was coined by co-founders Mohammed Sadiq Sheikh, Atif Amin and Roshan Khan alias Riyaz Bhatkal, shortly before the Jaipur bombings.

All three men had earlier worked with the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). They were reportedly controlled by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative Amir Razza on the directives of his commander Abu al-Qama, wanted for the pre-Diwali 2005 Delhi bombings that claimed about 60 lives.

Maria explained the chain of command: Atif Amin reported to Sheikh, who was accountable to Bhatkal. Bhatkal reported to Amir Razza, who reported to Qama.

Sheikh has been arrested while Atif was killed in a shootout with the police last month. The two were reportedly trained in Pakistan. Bhatkal, Dawood Ibrahim’s pointsman for currency smuggling and the allged brain behind the US consulate attack in January 2002 in Kolkata, is on the run.

“We suspect Dawood is funding both SIMI and LeT activities in India. Abu Bashar, a SIMI leader arrested for the Ahmedabad blasts, told us that in 2005 some people from LeT left a phone number at the Mumbai house of SIMI leader Abdul Subhan Qureshi alias Taqueer (now on the run) to make contact with Atif,” said the official.

“Bashar said it was the first time SIMI and IM came together. SIMI provided logistics support to IM, who are otherwise experts in assembling and triggering explosives.”

A meeting of SIMI, the Indian Mujahideen and LeT operatives was convened in a Kathmandu resort in June 2005 where they charted out their strategies to spread terror in India.

This was when Atif, Sheikh and Bhatkal began recruiting young men.

Many of Indian Mujahideen’s members hail from Azamgarh in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Others include volunteers from SIMI and criminals affiliated to jailed mafia don Aftab Ansari, say investigating officials.

“Money has never been their motive behind the attacks,” Deputy Commissioner of Delhi Police (Special Cell) Alok Kumar said of the Indian Mujahideen. “Literature related to Al Qaeda and other jehadi activities were used to brainwash youth to carry out terror attacks.”

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