According to media reports, the Bengaluru Police are presently interrogating 13 persons who have been taken into custody on suspicion of their involvement in a conspiracy to carry out assassinations of some targeted individuals in Karnataka and Hyderabad. The media reports have stated that the suspects under interrogation, all of them Indian nationals, are alleged to have had links with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), a Pakistani terrorist organisation, and the Bangladesh branch of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), which is generally referred to as HUJI (B). Both these organisations had operated in Hyderabad and Bengaluru in the past.
2. Eleven of the arrests were made on August 29,2012----six in Bengaluru and five in Hubli in Karnataka. The 12th arrest was made in Hyderabad on August 31 and the 13th in Bengaluru on September 1,2012. The 11 suspects arrested on August 29 included a journalist, a doctor and a Junior Research Fellow with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
3.ShriJyotiPrakashMirji, the Police Commissioner of Bengaluru City, was reported to have told the media on September 1 that the suspects were self- motivated and had no direct links with any other group. Their plan was to kill high profile personalities and cause communal tension in the country.
4.It is not clear what the Commissioner of Police meant when he said that the suspects had no link with any other group, since other reports quoting the police had said that the suspects had links with the LET and the HUJI (B). Did he mean that the suspects had no links with any other indigenous organisation such as the Indian Mujahideen, which had in the past operated in Bengaluru or the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) or Al Umma of Tamil Nadu, which had also in the past operated in Bengaluru?
5.On March 30,2006,the Karnataka Police had arrested at Jelenabad in Gulbarga District one Shamim Ahmed, a suspected activist of the LET, who was reportedly residing in Goa.An AK-47, two hand-grenades, a mobile phone, maps of dams and some power grids of Andhra Pradesh, some audio-visual cassettes and Urdu literature were allegedly found in his possession. It was not known what happened to him subsequently, whether he was prosecuted, on what charges and what was the outcome.
6. In January 2008, the Karnataka Police arrested RiazuddinNasir alias Mohammad Ghouse of Hyderabad and AsadullahAbubaker of Hospet. Nasir was a drop-out from an engineering college and Asadullah was a student of the Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences in Hubli. Subsequently, the Police also arrested one Mohammad Asif of the same Institute. During interrogation, Nasir was reported to have admitted that he had undergone training in an LET camp in Pakistan in 2006.
7. These three persons were reported to have told the police that they were planning to carry out terrorist strikes against foreign tourists in Goa and against foreign IT companies in Bengaluru.
8. This is the first time many suspects have been arrested, who were reportedly planning to assassinate individual personalities with hand-held weapons.No explosive material appears to have been recovered from them. It is not clear why they chose the targeted persons for assassination.
9. Some media reports, quoting police sources, have claimed that the suspects were self-motivated by visiting Internet sites of Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Whereas Al Qaeda based in North Waziristan of Pakistan has its web sites and propaganda material in the Arabic language, the AQAP has them in English, including its online motivational journal called "Inspire".Anwar al-Awlaki, the Amir of the AQAP who was a US citizen of Yemeni origin, and Samir Khan, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, who was an associate, were killed in a US Drone strike in Yemen on September 30,2011.
10.The investigation is likely to be difficult because the police have not been able to seize any evidence of forensic significance such as explosive material. The police may have to depend to a large extent on interrogation for ascertaining details. Cases based on interrogation and confessions do not often indulge in successful prosecutions, leading to allegations of mala fide from the Muslim community.
11. The police should keep an open mind in view of the inadequate forensic evidence and should resist any sensationalisation of the case, which could cause unnecessary tensions.
12. Since the arrests have been made in Karnataka as well as in AP and since the conspiracy for targeted assassinations reportedly involved targets in Karnataka as well as Hyderabad, it might be useful to have the case investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). (2-9-12)
(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: email@example.com Twitter @SORBONNE75)