Saturday, December 27, 2008

ISI of Pakistan planning to bomb Kolkata

Manan Kumar

NEW DELHI: After wreaking havoc in Mumbai, major towns of West Bengal, including Kolkata, are next on the hit list of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

Top sources in the Union Home Ministry confirmed that a group of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al- Islami (HuJI) terrorists has made repeated attempts to enter India recently from Bangladesh through the ‘chicken neck’ corridor.

“There is a possibility that some HuJI terrorists have already crossed over with arms and ammunition and are heading to team up with Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), Indian insurgent group, to carry out lethal terror strikes in West Bengal during end-December and early January,” sources said.

Another intelligence report on Wednesday stated that ULFA militants in Bangladesh are likely to enter through the Karimganj district of Assam, a temporary departure from their established routes of transit in Meghalaya.

Both the states have been alerted by the Centre. The alerts come close on the heels of the arrest in Jammu of three Pakistanis, one of them allegedly an army regular. The trio had come from Dhaka and apparently lived in Kolkata before proceeding to Jammu and Kashmir.

Working in cahoots with Bangladesh’s espionage agency Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), the ISI, with its sinister plan of ‘bleeding India through thousand wounds’, has made contacts with several Indian insurgent groups.

The recently carried out blasts in Assam that killed 89 were part of this design where the handlers in Bangladesh had roped in ULFA and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).

KLO that came into existence in 1995 with the help of ULFA is active in six districts of West Bengal _ South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur, Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, Malda and Darjeeling _ and four districts of lower Assam - Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara.

Intelligence agenciesclaim that both ISI and DGFI have made KLO an active partner with HuJI and are constantly helping it to upgrade its strike power by supplying arms, ammunitions and explosives.

“KLO chief Jeevan Singh is sheltered in Bangladesh, and is a protégé of the ULFA,” a senior official said. He hangs around in northern Bangladesh, close to his home constituency. Singh, along with Ranjan Daimary of the NDFB and Paresh Baruah of ULFA are said to be paying off the debt of protection from the HuJI-ISI nexus through "disturbing" eastern India. “Keeping them there cannot be a charitable deed, they would have to pay a price,” said a senior official.

Friday, December 26, 2008

2008 saw emergence of Islamic militancy in Assam

Sanjoy Ray / GUWAHATI

The year 2008 though witnessed lesser casualties of terrorist violence in the State compared to 2007, it, however, saw the emergence of Islamic militancy in the biggest way, even overpowering the impact of decade-old home-grown insurgency. More than 200 civilians have been killed in the State so far (Mid-December), besides 16 security personnel and about 130 terrorists taking the tally of casualties of insurgency to 369.

Of the 130 terrorists killed across the State, around ten were suspected HUJI activists, seven of them were killed in an encounter with the Army in the Dhubri district in September this year.

The month of October this year witnessed killing of around 90 civilians, eight security personnel and 18 insurgents. The month of April remained the most peaceful phase of the year with only 11 deaths taking place.

Last year, the total number of casualties of terrorist violence was around 437, which included 269 civilians.

As many as 29 blasts have rocked the State till mid-December this year, the October 30 serial blasts, which claimed around 90 lives being the biggest ever terrorist attack the region has ever witnessed.

The growing prominence of the outside players in the State came into the fore on October 30, when nine serial blasts ripped apart the State, including three in Guwahati.

Though investigations into the incident is yet to reach any logical conclusion, the preliminary investigation revealed that the perpetrator of the blasts was not the usual ULFA, but were orchestrated by powers, suspected to be the HUJI, from across the border, with Bodo militants providing logistic support.

“The State is facing a new kind of threat and the focus of law-enforcing has more or less shifted to cross-border terrorism than home-grown, with Islamic fundamentalist groups, operating from foreign lands, emerging as the new players in the game of blood and pushing the State’s insurgent outfits, including the ULFA and NDFB, to roles of side players,” concedes a senior Assam Police official while talking to The Assam Tribune.

“We, however, are not undermining the strength of any outfit, be it ULFA, NDFB or some splinter group,” the official stated.

The year 2008 saw the ULFA suffering revolt in its ranks and the proximity of its top leaders with Bangladeshi groups drew flak even from its own members, resulting in unilateral ceasefire agreement by the A and C company of ULFA’s 28 battalion. The potent wing of the outfit decided to join the mainstream with top leaders including Mrinal Hazarika, Joon Bhuyan and Jiten Dutta, leading the cadres.

The Dima Halom Daogah (Jewel faction), popularly known as Black Widow, also made its presence felt, unleashing a reign of terror with killings and blasts in the North Cachar Hills, killing at least 25 people, including police and railway personnel, within a week in May.

In the aftermath of the blasts, the NDFB leadership in designated camps in the State decided to replace Ranjan Daimary as the C-in-C with Dhiren Boro.

The All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA), fighting an armed battle for rights of the Adivasi people, suffered a major setback when its ‘C-in-C’ Mangra Oran alias David was arrested this month from Jharkhand.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Crucial poll in Bangladesh

Hiranmay Karlekar

The general election in Bangladesh, scheduled for December 29, will be most critical for that country’s future. Referring to it, American Ambassador to Bangladesh, Mr James F Moriarty, told the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington on December 11, “The country could achieve a peaceful transition and become a model of a relatively prosperous Muslim majority democracy… Or it could return to the winner-take-all obstructionist politics of previous years.” According to a recent report in Bangladesh’s leading English-language newspaper, The Daily Star, he further told the commission, a Government-funded advisory body created in 1998 to monitor religious freedom around the world and make policy recommendations to the US Administration, that if “Bangladesh stumbles within the coming months, it could become a breeding ground for terrorists and groups wishing to operate in South and South-East Asia”.

It is not difficult to recognise the validity of Mr Moriarty’s observations and identify the forces that could make Bangladesh a breeding ground of terrorist groups. His observation that Bangladesh could “return to the winner-take-all obstructionist politics of previous years” clearly points in the direction of the four- party alliance, of which the two principal constituents are Begum Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, that ruled the country from 2001 to 2006. The BNP was by far the senior partner with 193 seats in the 300-strong Jatiya Sansad or National Parliament, and having polled 41.4 per cent of the votes cast. The Jamaat came a distant third with 17 seats and 4.28 per cent of the votes polled, way behind the Awami League, the main Opposition party, which won 62 seats and secured 40.02 per cent of the votes.

Yet the Jamaat called much of the shots in the coalition Government, stalling action against fundamentalist terrorist organisations like the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and Ahle Hadith Andolan Bangladesh. Though international pressure forced the coalition Government to ban these terrorist outfits and arrest their leaders, the organisations remained active. This, it was widely alleged, was made possible by the Jamaat’s support.

In fact, the Jamaat’s Amir, Maulana Matiur Rahman Nizami, and general secretary, Mr Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojahid, had for a long time even denied the existence of the Operations Commander of the JMJB, Siddiqul Islam, or Bangla Bhai. Understandably, its relations with these organisations have been like those of Pakistan’s Jamaat-ud-Dawah with the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba.

Besides, the Jamaat used its participation in the Government to increase its massive business empire which funds its welfare and other activities aimed at expanding its support base and maintain its organisational infrastructure. It had its followers placed in universities, the armed forces, security agencies, the administration and the judiciary, often having the rules bent for the purpose. Also, thanks to generous help from Mr Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojahid, who was Minister of State for Social Welfare, there was a vast increase in the number of fundamentalist Islamist NGOs while secular NGOs were subjected to crippling harassment and persecution.

Not surprisingly, Bangladesh became a seething pit of murderous Islamist violence — directed against the secular civil society, the intelligentsia and the Opposition parties like the Awami League — during the rule of the four-party coalition. The horror of the situation was dramatically underlined on April 21, 2004, when a murderous grenade attack was launched at an Awami League rally in Dhaka. Though Sheikh Hasina, the prime target, survived, 22 Awami League leaders perished.

It was symptomatic of the BNP’s visceral hatred for India that some of its leaders insinuated that New Delhi was behind the attack and an inquiry by a former judge with links with the party blamed a neighbouring country without mentioning India. Not so long after the incident, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister, Mr Mohammad Morshed Khan, publicly warned India that if Bangladesh was India-locked, the seven States of north-eastern India were Bangladesh-locked and that he could wipe out India’s $ 3 billion annual trade with Bangladesh by just issuing one statutory order!

Needless to say, insurgent outfits like the United Liberation Front of Asom, active in north-eastern India, who had earlier been described by Begum Khaleda Zia as “freedom fighters”, received full support from Bangladesh’s Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, which has close links with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Simultaneously, there was a sharp increase in the incidence of terrorist attacks on India emanating from Bangladesh. That the trend continues, particularly in the North-East, during the current caretaker Government’s regime, was underlined by Home Minister P Chidambaram’s statement in the Lok Sabha on December 15, “The Government of Bangladesh has a responsibility to control the HuJI. In the long run, Bangladesh is hurting itself (by not containing terrorism).

The incidence of terrorist strikes against India from Bangladesh will increase sharply if the election brings the four-party coalition to power. Given the groundswell of support for the Awami League, this will happen only if the election is rigged. Many fear the election will be rigged because both the BNP and the Jamaat managed to install their supporters in the election machinery when they were in power. They have not been weeded out.

Also, attempts at intimidating Hindus, who traditionally support the Awami League, from voting have been reported form districts like Jessore, Khulna, Satkhira, Faridpur, Madaripur, Gopalganj, Jhalakathi, Pirojpur, Chandpur, Noakhali, Pabna, Bagerhat, Narail and Barisal where pockets of Hindu population exist. Hindus are being quietly told not to vote if they want to avoid the kind of communal carnage and gang-rape of their women that occurred in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 general election. Intimidation has also been reported from districts like Sherpur, Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Dinajpur, and Sylhet, which have sizeable pockets of indigenous ethnic minority communities who also traditionally support the Awami League.

New Delhi must mount pressure through the international community to prevent rigging. Poll observers being sent from various countries must be very alert. In any event, India must further step up its fight against terrorism. An important first step will be halting cattle smuggling to Bangladesh which is paid for through hawala transactions, much of the proceeds from which goes to funding terrorist activity here. Do we have the political will for it?

India Increases Vigilance Along Border With Bangladesh Amid Terrorism Threat

By Steve Herman (Voice of America)

India government officials say they have ordered closer surveillance of land borders amid concerns of more potential terrorist strikes inside the country by militants infiltrating from either Bangladesh or Pakistan.

India has increased vigilance along its border with Bangladesh. Domestic media reports say officials made the move following intelligence that suspected militants have entered the state of West Bengal.

There are specific concerns about members of Harkat ul-Jihad-al-Islami, which operates in both Bangladesh and Pakistan, and has been blamed for urban attacks in India in recent years. There are also worries about potential strikes by separatists targeting West Bengal and Assam, who are believed to have camps across the Bangladeshi border.

The director general of the Border Security Force, M.L. Kumawat, tells reporters security has been stepped up in the wake of such intelligence.

"We have asked our people to be highly alert and see that in no circumstances people from other countries can come into our country," he said. "We have heightened our vigilance, heightened our alertness and I can assure you that border guarding forces are much more alert than they were ever before"

The border with Bangladesh is notoriously porous with smugglers routinely moving across it without challenge. Kumawat says that border is of particular concern.

"About Bangladesh border, as you know, we have 4,096 kilometers of border on our eastern frontier and there are some areas where we do not have a fence, even now," he said.

India's home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told the parliament on Wednesday that he is ordering faster construction of additional fencing along the Bangladesh border.

The minister, who took responsibility for internal security in wake of last month's Mumbai terror attack, also says diplomatic efforts are being made to have the Bangladeshi and Burmese governments take action against anti-Indian insurgents on their soil.

India blames the Mumbai attack on at least 10 radical Islamic terrorists who infiltrated by sea from Pakistan.

That has prompted top Indian government officials to vow to upgrade and unify coastal and port security. At present India has no coordinated system for defense of its shores with security responsibilities divided among more than 20 separate ministries, agencies, departments and civilian and military forces.