Lashkar-trained Indian Terrorists Pose Growing Threat

18 December 2008
The Hindu


New Delhi: Even as India struggles to recover from last month’s massacre in Mumbai, its intelligence and police services are facing up to the prospect that the next Lashkar-e-Taiba attack could be just months - or even weeks - away. Pakistan, under intense international pressure, has moved to rein in the Lashkar’s parent political organisation, the Jamat-ud-Dawah. However, dozens of Lashkar members trained in camps in Pakistan are still at large - all Indian nationals who, during a series of bombings targeting several cities in 2007 and 2008, demonstrated their willingness and ability to kill. Executed by a group calling itself the Indian Mujahideen, the serial blasts in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi have often been described as the work of ‘home-grown’ jihadists. Police investigators admit that at least 12 members of the group are yet to be held. But while India’s jihadist movement is without dispute home grown - from seeds sown by vicious communal politics - Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba watered and nourished the soil on which it grew. Made in Pakistan Mohammad Sadiq Sheikh, who investigators claim was among the co-founders of the Indian Mujahideen, was a member of the group to train in Pakistan. According to Delhi police investigators, Sheikh’s training in Pakistan was facilitated by his brother-in-law Mujahid Salim - the son of Hyderabad-based Islamist cleric Maulana Abdul Aleem Islahi, who founded the Jamiat-ul-Sheikh Maududi, named after the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Sheikh, police say, was sent to Kolkata in late 2001 to meet with mafioso Aftab Ansari, who then arranged for his travel across the border to Dhaka and fly to Karachi on an illegal Bangladeshi passport. In a statement to the Delhi police - not admissible as evidence in Sheikh’s ongoing criminal trial - Sheikh said a Pakistani official carrying a placard was waiting for him at Karachi. He was whisked past immigration and customs, and driven to a bungalow in Karachi’s Defence Colony where he was greeted by Gujarat organised crime baron Rasool Khan and an ISI official. Late that night, Sheikh left for a military base on the Baluchistan coast, where he underwent a 21-day course in the use of assault weapons and improvised explosive device fabrication. After his training, Sheikh is said to have held discussions with key Lashkar leaders, including its overall chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, principal ideologue Maulana Abdul Rehman Makki and Muzaffarabad-based operations commander Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi. Salim, Sheikh’s mentor, was killed in 2004, when police fired on a crowd which attempted to prevent the arrest of cleric Maulana Naseeruddin Nasir. Maulana Nasir is now serving time in Gujarat for his role in recruiting the jihadists who assassinated the State Home Minister Haren Pandya - jihadists who, like Sheikh, were routed to Pakistani terror training camps through Bangladesh and other countries by the organised crime syndicates of Aftab Ansari, Rasool Khan and Riyaz Bhatkal. Trained in Pakistan Sheikh, for his part, recruited several figures alleged to have played a key role in the bombings by the Indian Mujahideen. Its commander Atif Amin, who was killed in a September shootout with the Delhi police at Jamia Nagar, is thought to have trained in Pakistan, as did train Mumbai-based Arif Badr Sheikh. So too did Shahnawaz Khan, a Lucknow-based Unani doctor whose brother Mohammad Saif was arrested during the Jamia Nagar raid. Graphic account One graphic account of training in Pakistan has come from Raziuddin Nasir, who volunteered after his father’s incarceration. Nasir, facing trial for his alleged role in a 2007 plot to bomb western tourists in Goa, flew to Pakistan from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in September 2005. Like the Indian Mujahideen operatives, he was met by ISI officials at the Karachi airport to ensure that no arrival marking was stamped on his passport, briefed at the Defence Colony safe house and then taken to the coastal Baluchistan military training camp. Karnataka police investigators say Nasir then met with Lashkar leaders Saeed and Makki at the organisation’s headquarters in Murdike, before travelling to Pakistan-administered Kashmir for further training. Lakhvi then arranged for him to undergo the ‘Daura Aam’ (basic training course) in Manshehra and the advanced ‘Daura Khaas’ at the Shawai Nullah camp, where the terrorists who attacked Mumbai received military instruction. Later, Nasir also completed the ‘Daura-e-Lashkar’ (survival course), the ‘Daura-e-Ribat’ (intelligence course) and the ‘Bait-ul-Rizwan’ (commando course) - the last imparted by instructors who identified themselves as officers of Pakistan crack Special Services Group’s Zarar Company. Indian nationals have long been targeted for recruitment by the Lashkar. New Delhi resident Amir Hashim, who operated under the code-name ‘Kamran,’ underwent the Daura Aam and Daura Khaas in Muzaffarabad as early as 2006. In March 1997, Hashim and Pakistani national Wasim Akbar staged a blast at a parking lot outside the Jalandhar railway station, killing six people. Mohammad Azam Ghauri and Abdul Karim ‘Tunda,’ who set up Lahskar-linked jihadist cells as early as 1993, are also believed to have received bomb-making training with the Lashkar.