July 16, 2006

7/11: Narsimha Rao was efficient than Moron Manmohan

By B.Raman

There has so far been no breakthrough in the police investigation into the seven well-synchronised explosions targeting train commuters in Mumbai on March 11,2006, in which 180 persons were killed and over 700 injured.

2. Compared to the serial bombings of March,1993, the progress in the investigation has been much slower this time with no breakthrough in sight . In March,1993, the initial breakthrough came within a few hours of the blasts because the terrorists had placed the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in stolen cars. The number plates of the cars provided a useful starting point for the investigation. Moreover, one of the IEDs failed to explode and was recovered intact. An abandoned car with some AK-47s of Chinese make and hand-grenades of Pakistani make was found.On checking the immigration records at the Mumbai international airport, the intelligence agencies found that an entire Muslim family, engaged in the travel business, had left Mumbai for Dubai in two batches---one batch before the day of the explosion and the other on the evening of the day of the explosion. Checking of the airport records at Dubai showed that some of them had travelled to Karachi a few weeks earlier by the Pakistani International Airlines and returned to Dubai some days later. They travelled with visas on plain paper issued by the Pakistani Consulate in Dubai so that their passports did not carry any entry regarding their travel to Karachi. Some of the perpetrators fled to Kathmandu by road and from there to Dubai. Those days, the terrorists did not observe much of communication security. Many of the telephone calls between Dawood Ibrahim, the mafia leader then based in Dubai, who organised the explosions with the assistance provided by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and his men in Kathmandu, who were monitoring the progress of the police investigation and reporting to him, were intercepted.There was excellent co-operation from the Nepal Police.

3. Within a few hours of the explosions, P.V.Narasimha Rao, the then Prime Minister, took the following action:

He asked Rajesh Pilot, then Minister of State for Internal Security, to fly to Mumbai in a special Air Force plane with senior officials of the Government of India dealing with internal security to visit the scenes of the explosions, discuss with the Chief Minister of Maharasdhtra and his officers and report to him (the PM) their observations with recommendations for action by the Government of India.
He asked Shri Abdul Kalam, who was then Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister, and some of his scientists to fly to Mumbai to assist the Mumbai Police in the forensic examination and particularly in determining the nature of the explosives used.
He directed the heads of the intelligence agencies of the Government of India to fly to Mumbai and assist the Mumbai Police in the investigation.
He directed the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) to contact the heads of the intelligence agencies of the UK and the USA and request them to depute their counter-terrorism experts to Mumbai so that they could inspect the scene for themselves and come to their own conclusions regarding any Pakistani involvement.
He rang up the heads of the Governments of the United Arab Emirates and Nepal and sought their co-operation in the investigation.
He set up a special group in New Delhi to continuously monitor the progress of the investigation and keep him informed. It acted in tandem with a similar group, which had been set up in Mumbai by Shri Sharad Pawar, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
4. The Mumbai Police has been facing difficulty this time because the terrorists would seem to have kept the IEDs in brief cases. Not a single IED failed. The terrorists have taken great care not to leave tracks of their involvement. No incrminating material in the form of abandoned weapons, railway tickets, mobile hand-sets etc has been found. Terrorists operating all over the world are much more security conscious today than those of a decade ago and observe communication security. The Nepali Police and security agencies are in a state of demoralisation because of the witch-hunt being carried on by the present Nepalese Government against them under pressure from the Maoists.

5. It is disturbing that even five days after the blasts our forensic experts have not been able to establish the nature of the explosives used.Initially, it was reported that RDX might have been used. Then, the suspicion fell on dynamite. The latest needle of suspicion points to ammonium nitrate. I heard a local official associated with the investigation say on the TV on the afternoon of July 16 that forensic evidence collected from the scene has not so far enabled the forensic experts to determine the nature of the explosive used.

6. One does not know what follow-up action has been taken by the Government of India to assist the Mumbai Police in their investigation.Two claims of a dubious nature have been made after the explosions. The first claim reportedly came in the form of a telephone call from an individual who gave his name as Abu Abdul Rehman al Ansari. He claimed that an Al Qaeda unit has been formed in Jammu & Kashmir and that he has been appointed its chief.

7. One should not take this claim seriously for the following reasons. Firstly, there is so far no evidence of any support to Al Qaeda from Kashmiri Muslims. They have been supporting the Pakistani jihadi organisations, which are members of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), but they have been keeping away from Al Qaeda and bin Laden. The Kashmiri jihadi organisations believe they cannt achieve their aims without US support.They feel any support from them to Al Qaeda might cost them US support. Any evidence of support for Al Qaeda and its ideology has come from non-Kashmiri Muslims living in other parts of India.More non-Kashmiri Muslims demonstrated against the visit of President Bush to India in March than Kashmiri Muslims.

8.Secondly, for their kuniyats (assumed names) Al Qaeda members choose the names of one of the companions of the Holy Prophet. No jihadi would assume a kuniyat similar to what this telephone caller has assumed. The Hizbul Mujahideen, one of the indigenous Kashmiri organisations, which has its headquarters in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), has said in a statement:"Al Qaeda had neither any base in Jammu and Kashmir in the past nor does it have any at present." This statement is meant to reassure the Americans, one of the benefactors of the indigenous Kashmiri jihadi organisations. One should not forget the active involvement of Ms.Robin Raphael, then posted in the US Embassy in Delhi, with the Kashmiri jihadi organisations in the early 1990s before President Clinton selected her for the State Department.

9. The second claim has come from an organisation calling itself Lashkar-e-Qahhar. A claim from an organisation with a similar name had also come after the explosions in Varanasi in March last. This claim has come in the form of an E-mail signed John Smith. I am inclined for the present to doubt the authenticity of this claim too because no jihadi organisation worth its salt would use a Christian or Jewish Kuniyat.

10. In the absence of concrete leads about the persons actually involved, the media---print and electronic--- have been circulating a lot of other names of persons suspected to have been involved. Among these names are Rahil Abdul Rahman Sheikh, Zulfiquar Fayaz Qazi and Zabiuddin Ansari, all said to be Indian Muslims from Maharashtra, belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba. There was reportedly suspicion of their involvement in the smuggling of a large consignmrent of RDX explosives recovered by the Police in the Aurangabad area in May,2006.

11. The smoking gun of 11/7 is yet to be found.

(The writer is Additional Secretarey (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: itschen36@gmail.com )

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