Under the cloak of a burqa, five Taliban terrorists from Pakistan raged into the agricultural university campus of Peshawar on Friday, December 1st. The outbreak claimed the lives of nine students and left 32 injured before the gunmen were shot by the security forces. According to reports from The Times of India, Tehreek-i-Taliban took responsibility for the attack. Their link with supervisors in Afghanistan was suggested by the military officials. Tahir Khan, city police chief stated that the attackers entered the institute in a rickshaw and went into the training institute and fired at the inmates of the hostel. However, the crowd was relatively less as it was a government holiday on account of Eid-e-Milad.
The terrorists were equipped with automatic weapons and discharged grenades as the entered the campus. Police officials stated that the terrorists were killed by the security forces following an hour-long shootout that left three policemen injured. Hindu reported that the terrorists were geared with suicide jackets, pistols and explosives. They also possessed powerful artilleries such as AK 47s and Kalashnikovs.
Reports from Hindu stated that on Thursday, a day before the attack, Sajjad Khan, police SSP had informed the media about an intelligence report suggesting terrorist hostages. As a security measure, many law enforcement organizations were kept under vigilance. Despite the warning, there were inadequate number guards delegated to the institute. Being close to the Afghanistan border has made Peshawar a victim of violence meted against them by the Taliban mutiny.
Karachi – A suicide bombing attack at the Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Sufi shrine in Pakistan killed over 88 people and injured more than 340 people.
The suicide attack, claimed by Islamic terrorist outfit ISIS, took place on February 16 in Sehwan, a southern province in Sindh. Thousands of pilgrims travel from across the country towards the holy shrine every Thursday. Sindh Health Minister, Sikandar Mandhro, said that the blast took place inside the shrine, where a huge explosion instantly took the lives of multiple and injured a large section of pilgrims in the vicinity.
The Pakistani government and army have taken instant action and killed about 39 militants in an attempt to crackdown on the growing threat of terror within the country. The Paramilitary Sindh Rangers stated that they killed 18 terrorists, while police killed another 12 militants and the remaining were executed individually around the country.
The nation is facing widespread criticism for the lack of stringent security at crowded public spaces like the revered shrine. This suicide attack is one of the deadliest in Pakistan’s history, with ISIS virtually declaring war against the nation.
Research Analysis Wing (RAW), has recently been appreciated along with other intelligence agencies (Intelligence Bureau and National Intelligence Agency) for the successful arrest of Abdul Kareem Tunda and Yasin Bhatkal. Both these terrorists were in India’s “Most Wanted” list. Talking to two retired RAW officers, certain queries about the procedure which will be followed for their punishment were answered.
Q: After many years, the intelligence agencies have arrested two of the “most wanted” terrorists. RAW has played a very important role in this. What was the reason behind the successful captures?
Mr. V. Swaminathan (name changed): You should realize that our intelligence agencies, working under a democratic set-up, are pitted against the Inter Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) of Pakistan who control all terrorist activities against India. The ISI is almost independent of the civilian government in Pakistan and is only answerable directly to the army Chief. Whatever successes we have achieved in the last 20 years have been secured by out witting ISI. Incidentally, our successes are not only in terms of identifying and occasionally capturing the perpetrators. We are unable to capture all the identified criminals because they take shelter in Pakistan and are controlled by ISI. We have also foiled many other acts of terrorism thanks to our intelligence agencies.
Mr. M. Bose(name changed): Intelligence agencies have been doing some really commendable work since their inception, arrest doesn’t warrant a remedy all the time, but anyway this is a very encouraging development.
Q: It’s been said that RAW and other agencies like IB and NIA, have worked together to successfully locate and arrests these terrorists? Why do you think this wasn’t done before?
Swaminathan: Your impression that RAW, IB, NIA worked in collaboration only this time is not correct. There is always a body (it has changed its name from time to time) to which all these agencies report any information gathered by them and it is that body which collates all the information and draws conclusions which are placed before the Home Minister and Prime Minister. In my time we had a joint intelligence committee headed by a very senior IPS Officer Sri. K. Subramanyam who was considered India’s best strategic expert. He was founder of IDSA (Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis). He passed away a few months ago.
Bose: Inter agencies coordination is key to sources, it’s not that that there was nothing like it earlier, but the catch this time got some attention.
Q: Do you personally think that these guys will also be made “Terror Icons” like Kasab?
Swaminathan: I do not know what you mean by terror icons. The two guys recently captured would be questioned thoroughly by the various police agencies and intelligence agencies. There are experts who can question any person in such a way that ultimate they tell the truth.
Bose: The whole term ‘terror icon’ is disturbing, its media which acts like the PR agents of them. Kasab certainly was a priced catch in the recent times. I am sure we are all aware that intelligence is banked upon information thus; these terrorists are an encyclopedia of information.
Q: It took years for the government to punish Kasab, when it was clearly understood beyond reason that he was guilty. Do you think the government will ensure that speedy justice is delivered this time around?
Swaminathan: Being a democratic polity, we have to give the opportunity to everybody – citizen or not – to have a fair trial. This can be time consuming. In the case of Kasab, it did not take too much time compared to some terrorists of Indian Origin who are in custody much longer and not yet brought to trial.
Bose: There is a law of the land, we all need to follow them and that’s what makes India a democratic country where the 3 estates are well established. Executions don’t help otherwise world would have been a safe place by now and Israel not a super power.
Q: What is usually RAW’s role after an arrest is made?
Swaminathan: RAW or IB or NIA all provide verifiable evidence to the prosecutors. Sometimes they may have to withhold the name of the source from where they got the evidence to protect the source and also to be able to use the source in future.
Bose: I don’t know much about it, but there are certain legislative procedures where the RAW will now come into play.
Q: Two terrorist in 2-3 weeks have crossed the Indo- Nepal border. Do you think the Indian military is lacking pro-activeness?
Swaminathan: The border between Nepal and India is quite open. There is no military presence guarding the frontier. Travel between India and Nepal is quite easy both ways. That is why Nepal is being used by terrorists. If Nepal had a strong government, they would have ensured that their country is not used as base by terrorists.
Bose: It’s a porous border, people come in and leave, besides that, just like everybody else terrorists are smart enough to deceive and camouflage their identity well. I agree, that there is a bit of political will required to handle these situations but it serves the much larger geo-political purpose.
The temple town of Bodh Gaya, the place where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, was rudely awakened by a series of blasts on Sunday morning. Regarded as the first major terror attack on a Buddhist holy site in India, the nine explosions took place between 5.30 and 5.58 in the morning, leaving two monks injured.
Thirteen bombs were planted over a radius of one km from the Mahabodhi temple. A police official said that four bombs exploded inside the Mahabodhi temple complex, three in the Karmapa monastery and one each near the 80-feet Buddha statue and at the bus stand near the by-pass.
Out of the remaining four, police recovered one exploded bomb from Terega Monastery. The other two live bombs were found at the Rampur Road junction en route to the temple and near the Buddha statue respectively. The last one was planted close-by.
The three bombs were not only defused on time but also found to be carrying some kind of inscriptions on them. The word “bus” was written in English on one. “To protest Iraq war” and “Bada But” (big statue) were written in Urdu on the other two bombs.
On examining the bombs, it was found that small LPG cylinders were used as containers to detonate explosives that are suspected to be a mixture of ammonium nitrate and RDX. The cylinders were filled with explosives after the gas was taken out. Circuit was completed using a detonator and timer device.
Fortunately, Lord Buddha’s 80-foot statue in the temple didn’t get damaged. According to the National Security Guard (NSG), the terrorists planted the bombs so close to each other that when one went off, it exploded the other’s timer making it useless. “When the first bombs exploded, the timers of the others broke and the circuit was terminated,” a senior NSG officer said.
The circuit, however, had similarities with IEDs found in the Ahmedabad (2008), Jaipur (2006) and Pune (2012) blasts which were carried out by the Indian Mujahideen. “In none of these, cylinders were used. It’s difficult to say if it’s a signature of any group,” another NSG officer said.
Even though the Bihar government received a warning twice in the last three months regarding a possible attack from the jihadi groups, the state failed to take appropriate security measures. The warning had specified that the terrorists were targeting Buddhist temples in reaction to supposed atrocities on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar plans to request the Centre to deploy Central Industrial Security Force personnel for the protection of the Mahabodhi temple. The CM said the National Investigation Agency will probe the serial blasts and state officials would assist the premier probe agency. “The perpetrators of the blast will not be spared,” Kumar said.