December 07, 2011

BREAKTHROUGH IN TERROR INVESTIGATION: NEED FOR CAUTION

B.RAMAN

The recent claims by the Delhi Police of a breakthrough in the investigation of three terror strikes of last year in Pune (February 2010), Bengaluru (April,2010) and Delhi (September 2010)speak well of their diligence in pursuing the investigation despite the absence of any initial clues of a substantive nature.

2. The long time taken by them for collecting evidence and making the initial arrests of six Muslims---- five of Bihar and one from Pakistan--- would indicate painstaking efforts by the Delhi Police to ensure that they kept an open mind during the investigation and refrained from jumping to premature conclusions that might be proved wrong as had happened in the case of the Malegaon and Hyderabad blasts between 2006 and 2008.

3. It seems to be the assessment of the Delhi Police that the blasts in which they have claimed a break-through were carried out by the Indian Mujahideen (IM), which was responsible for a series of blasts in different cities, including Delhi, in 2007 and 2008.

4. While complimenting the Delhi Police for the breakthrough claimed by them, one has to sound a word of caution and cite some factors which don’t click. Firstly, the version of the Pune blast as now given out by the Delhi Police does not tally with that earlier given out by the Maharashtra Police. How does one reconcile the contradictions?

5.Secondly, the IM had generally used well-fabricated and well-timed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in 2007 and 2008 except those in Bengaluru in 2008 which did not have the lethality expected of them due to defective fabrication. In the three cases for which a breakthrough has now been claimed, a kichdi (hotch-potch) of modus-operandi (MO) seems to have been used---a sophisticated IED in Pune, somewhat crude IEDs in Bengaluru and an IED plus a hand-held weapon in Delhi.This kichdi does not tally with past MO of the older vintage of the IM.

6. Thirdly,the older vintage of the IM always used to come out with authentic sounding claims of responsibility with detailed explanations of what provoked them to carry out the attacks. We haven’t had any such claims in respect of the strikes in which the Delhi Police have claimed a break-through. Ilyas Kashmiri, the Pakistani associated with Al Qaeda, did make a claim in respect of the Pune blast, but his claim remained unauthenticated.

7.It is quite possible that a new vintage of IM has been in action----with the same ideological inspiration and same grievances as the earlier one of 2007-08, but with a lack of uniformity in its skills and MO. It is important to go deeper into it and avoid hasty conclusions and make hasty claims. ( 8-12-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.comTwitter: @SORBONNE75)

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