Saturday, January 2, 2010

India's Response to Terror

People did not usher in the New Year of 2009 with great fanfare since the memories of the horrific Mumbai attack was still very fresh in their minds. The year 2009 was by and large peaceful when compared to 2008 when there were blasts almost every single day in the country. It appears that India had learnt its lesson and the security was tight to a large extent and interestingly the arrests of various local terrorists were made in the right manner thus curbing terror activities to a large extent.

The year 2009 had more strategies and there was a lot of damage control exercise that was undertaken in a bid to curb terror activities in India. Let us look back at terrorism in India in the past one year and also how the government has coped up with this issue.

The year 2009 largely focused on the investigations into the Mumbai attack. Four months after the attack the chargesheet was filed and 12 Pakistanis apart from the lone surviving gunman Ajmal Kasab were named in it.

There was growing pressure from the people of the country to act upon terror. It was clear that there was a failure and also lack of coordination among the security agencies which made the job of terrorists easier. The government of India then set up a Multi Agency Centre apart from a nodal agency within the Intelligence Bureau which was made responsible for coordination. Apart from this subsidiary multi agencied were also set up which were handed over the responsibility to maintain a data bank regarding terrorists and their outfits.

On January 1 2009 three blasts rocked Assam in which several people were killed and many other injured. The blasts took place ahead of the visit by the Home Minister to the state. The hand of ULFA was confirmed in the blasts.

On January 3, an important arrest was made in Uttar Pradesh, Mirzapur. The police said that these were members of a local terror outfit sponsored by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. 5200 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, 41 bundles of fuse wire, 300 detonators, 157 detonator chargers, and a locally made pistol, a rifle and some cartridges were seized from them.

On January 5, the government handed over the first bit of evidence to Pakistan stating its role in the Mumbai attack. The government also stepped up pressure on Pakistan to hand over the terrorists it had with them.

On January 7th, the Gujarat police made an important breakthrough in the serial blasts case when it arrested a man by the name Ghulam Mustafa. While his role in the serial blasts was being probed, it also became clear that he had planned on carrying out several attacks in the state. Three days later an ISI agent, Amir Ahmed was picked up in Meerut along with documents having information on anti tank guided missiles.

The Union Government decided to undertake measures to strenghthen local intelligence gathering. The government directed all states to form a dedicated fund so that this machinery could be strengthened.

The year 2009 also saw the formation of the National Investigating Agency. This agency was set up and the role assigned to it was to investigate all cases pertaining to terrorism anywhere in the country. The first chief of the agency was Radha Vinod Raju

In January 2009 there was an important breakthrough that was made in the Bangalore blasts case with the arrest of E. T. Zainudheen alias Abdul Sattar, a native of Malappuram District in Kerala. Sattar was closely associated with Riyaz Bhatkal, a leader of the IM

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) restructured two of its divisions, the Internal Security (IS) and Police. It assigned more senior officers to look into operational aspects of anti-terror operations.

A key SIMI operative by the name Amil Parvesh was arrested in Kerala and he confessed that he had trained several persons in bomb making. He said that he was sent from Madhya Pradesh to southern Indian to train cadres.

In February, the investigation into the Mumbai attack got a boost with the FBI passing on evidence stating that the entire plan was hatched in Pakistan. The FBI handed over details of the VoIP and satellite phone conversation details which indicated that the Mumbai attack was planned in Pakistan.

In March 2009, the Bangalore police made an important arrest and for the first time the ulf link to terror operations in India were revealed. Sarfaraz Nawaz was picked up from Muscat and brought down to Bangalore for allegedly funding the blasts. He confirmed that funds were being raised from several rich persons in the Gulf to facilitate terror attacks in India.

Another interesting development that came to light was that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had for the first time utilized cadres from Kerala for their Kashmir operation. Fiyaz Ahammed, Sajad Ahammed Reshi and Shabbir Ahammed Tal took part in the terror camp organised by the LeT in Kupwara and Dorusa forest areas in Kashmir.

On March 23, the trial in the Mumbai case commences with Kasab confirming that he was a Pakistan national. The prosecution proposed 312 charges against him

On April 6th another blast rocked Assam in which 6 persons were injured.

In the month of May India expressed displeasure over the manner in which Pakistan was handling the perpertrators of the Mumbai attack. The Home Minister on the release of Hafiz Sayeed had said that Pakistan does not show a degree of seriousness and commitment that it should.

A very important arrest of Omar Madani was made in New Delhi. The Delhi police had said that he had helped various militants cross over from Pakistan to India through Nepal. It was also revealed that he had prepared an accutrate route map which was used by the Mumbai map maker Fahim Ansari.

In June the government decided to increase the number of coastal police stations. It was also decided to take steps to better the coordination between the Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Police of States apart from the intelligence agencies to increase security vigil. The government also set up a high level committee to review the costal security in the aftermath of the Mumbai attack. Further the government also decided to introduce identification cards to the residents of coastal villages. The government said that entire process would be complted by March 10

In July Pakistan for the first time handed over a 36 page dossier and confirmed the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had carried out the Mumbai attacks. The dossier termed Lashkar operations chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi as the mastermind and admitting the Pakistan nationality of Ajmal Amir Kasab.

I August, India handed over another dossier to Pakistan on the Mumbai attack. In the dossier it pressed the need to prosecute Lashkar bosss Hafiz Sayeed The dossier, comprising a seven-page summary and 60 pages of annexure, contains replies to queries posed by Pakistan with regard to investigation and legal process involved in the 26/11 attacks which were carried out by Lashkar.

A special POTA court sentenced to death three persons in connection with the bomb blast case of August 2003. The sentence against was pronounced against Haneef Sayyed, his wife Fahmeeda and Ashrat Ansari.

The Union Government informed the Supreme Court that after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, it asked the States to set up anti-terrorist squads, and many States did so. This was in response to a petition which had expressed concern over the police using outdated weapons and being ill-equipped to handle terror attacks.

A paramilitary force called the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) set up 578 security posts on the Butan and Nepal border to curb infiltration by terrorists.

In the month of August, the government proposed to enact a federal anti terror law to give more powers to the NIA. The government also planned on setting up a centralized system to monitor communications on mobile phones, internet and also landlines.

On August 30, Vikki, son of Majid Manihar who is an ISI agent was picked up in Uttar Pradesh. He revealed that counterfeit currency was printed in Lahore and Karachi in Pakistan from where it is sent to Nepal by cargo and then to India. The entire operation is managed by the ISI through its Nepal-based agent Manihar, Vikki's father. A month later Fake currency worth Rs 209000 brought from Bangladesh was recovered from a youth in Raipur in Chhattisgarh.

Sudhanshu Sudhakar, a dismissed Indian army jawan was arrested for working for the ISI. He had been tipping off the ISI regarding the operations of the Indian army so as to help terrorists infiltrate into India.

October was a turning point for the investigations in the Mumbai attack. The FBI picked up two persons, David Headley and Tawwahur Rana in connection with a plot to attack a Danish newspaper. Later it came to light that the two of them were involved in the Mumbai attack and had carried out a reccee of the attacked targets.

On November 14, a spy from Pakistan was picked up in New Delhi. He was trying to board a flight to Saudi Arabia with important defence documents.

The same month the Home Minister announced that a DNA data bank would be set up. He also announced that there would be a modernization plan which would include the opening of forensic labs and mobile units apart from Global Unique File descroptors.

On November 16, Nuclear installations in the coutry were put on high alert after the FBI found that Headley had them on the radar.

In the same month the BSF picks up T Nasir, a Lashkar operative who had allegedly masterminded the Bangalore blasts apart from sending cadres to Kashmir to fight alongside other Lashkar operatives.

November 26 marked the first anniversary of the Mumbai attack. This event was marred by controversy with the wife of Ashok Kamte, alleging that the Mumbai police had not enough to save her husband.

Two days later the Home Ministry said that Rs 1.47 billion has been sactioned to establish secure online connectivity between various agencies.This was in addition to the scheme of INR 41.85 billion for modernising CPMF to enhance their operational capabilities. Under this scheme, the forces would be equipped with latest weapons, surveillance and communication facilities and body-protection gear.

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