Aaron Mannes,R.K. Raghavan,Animesh Roul and V.S. Subrahmanian
High-profile arrests of Tunda and Bhatkal tell the story of how Indias security apparatus is getting better at border control and intelligence operations. There is a lot more to be done.
On August 29,Indian security teams scored a major victory in their fight against terrorism when they captured Yasin Bhatkal,one of the leaders of the Indian Mujahideen,a formidable terrorist group that derives its inspiration from across the border,specifically the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Pakistans ever-mischievous Inter-Services Intelligence. Although we dont have all the facts,it is logical to speculate that Bhatkals nabbing was a triumph of coordination between Indian and Nepalese agencies,and between R&AW,the IB and the NIA. It augurs well for the future fight against terrorists,both foreign and homegrown. The relationship is bound to have its ups and downs,but that should in no way be allowed to obscure the objective of strengthening national security. Nothing should be done either by the media or those in authority to dilute this harmony.
Responsible for complicity in numerous terrorist attacks,including the triple courthouse bombings in Uttar Pradesh in 2007,the 2008 simultaneous bombings in Jaipur as well as another series of simultaneous bombings the same year in Bengaluru and the German Bakery bombing in Pune in 2010,the IM has struck terror across many of Indias major cities,killing hundreds of innocent civilians. A coordinated effort by Indias security authorities led to engineer-turned-terrorist Bhatkals arrest at the border between India and Nepal. Despite coming in for much criticism over the years,the countrys security apparatus richly deserves the accolades it is now receiving for its role in the latest arrest.
But amidst the congratulations and backslapping,there is cause for concern and enhanced vigilance. According to a forthcoming book titled Indian Mujahideen: Analysis and Policies (Springer 2014) by the authors of this article,arrests of IM operatives are almost always followed a few months later by additional terror attacks. IMs forays are almost always targeted at soft targets,such as market places,and often involve multiple devices and locations,usually but not always in the same city. With the demoralising effect of Bhatkals arrest on its cadre,IM leaders such as Amir Reza Khan and Abdul Subhan Qureshi,who are said to be still at large in Pakistan,may decide to revitalise their operatives with fresh attacks on soft targets during the next three to four months. Based on their historical modus operandi,the cities most at risk are those in UP (such as Varanasi and Lucknow),as well as Delhi,Bengaluru,Mumbai and Jaipur. Chennai,incident-free for several years,is increasingly becoming a theatre for the demonstration of militant feelings,as evidenced by a procession some Muslim organisations took out last September close to the US consulate on the arterial Anna Salai. This was to protest against an American movie that had allegedly denigrated Islam. Chennai Police will remain anxious on this score. Undaunted by Bhatkals arrest,elements of the IM may be expected to bounce back. The official counter-offensive requires a strong and widespread intelligence presence and police station-level alertness that would sharpen the protection of crowded continued…