Red alert: Terrorists in our backyard?

The statistics are uncomfortable for any government and police leadership.

The arrest of eight terror suspects from Karnataka, including six from Bengaluru alone, in a span of less than 20 days, has exposed a chilling reality — the reach of jihadist organisations Al Qaeda and Daesh extends right into our city.

With five days left in January this year, already seven alleged terror
suspects owing allegiance to the two worst-known global Islamic jihadist organisations, Al Qaeda and Daesh have been arrested in Karnataka. Five of them are from the city.

The impression is that there could be more arrests due the detention of Javed Rafeeq by the Anti-Terrorist Squad of Telangana last Saturday, in an old case of terrorism, taking the headcount to two short of 10.

The statistics are uncomfortable for any government and police leadership to have men in their jurisdiction, who have been allegedly radicalised enough to enroll as fidayeens in the Al Qaeda and Daesh. They planned to strike ‘lone wolf’ attacks in Bengaluru and other metros. The timing couldn’t have been worse with the state desperately hoping to garner more than Rs 5 lakh crores in revenue in the forthcoming ‘Invest Karnataka 2016’ — the much hyped global investors’ meet this year.

Even though the Chief Minister and the Home Minister have washed their hands of the NIA operation, the chilling intelligence report is that Karnataka-born Shafi Armar from Bhatkal could be the Daesh head-hunter for the Indian Muslim youth, for training along the lines of his role model — ‘Jihadi John,’ — the most reviled terrorist, who was killed in a drone strike in Syria in November last year.

“A big part of Bengaluru’s history is steeped in terrorism. Terror attacks have been visiting the city with an alarming frequency. First in 1991, the key Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres and assassins of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi killed themselves in a house in Bengaluru to escape arrest. Then the serial church blasts by the proscribed terrorist organisation — Deendar Anjuman in 2000, followed by the encounter of three Al-Umma terrorists in Sanjaynagar, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) attack in 2005, the serial bomb blasts in 2008, the Chinnaswamy stadium blasts in 2010, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba terror conspiracy case in 2012, the Malleswaram blast in 2013, the train blast in the Bangalore-Guwahati Express in May 1, 2014 in Chennai, in which the explosives were reportedly kept in Bengaluru, where the trains start and the Church Street blast in December 2014. It has been an ongoing cycle.” said a retired Director-General and Inspector-General of police.

Can’t local police keep track of terror suspects?

Whenever there is an arrest of a terror suspect, it is attributed to inputs from the central intelligence agencies or the NIA. This has raised questions about the intelligence-gathering system of the city police, particularly at the police station level.

The Central Crime Branch (CCB) and the Internal Security Division (ISD), which have a separate wing to deal with terrorism, also reportedly failed to track down the suspects, who were picked up by the NIA. Now, the question is, who has to be blamed for this failure?

“Both the Intelligence Bureau and the NIA are focused on what they are doing. It does not work the same way at the police station level. From maintaining law and order to prevention and detection of crimes, the staff at the stations is overburdened with various responsibilities. They have to look into missing cases and also solve family disputes.”

“Though there are a few Special Branch constables in each station, their focus is mainly on collecting information on the probability of a communal clash, rowdies and other developments in their jurisdiction,” a DCP in the city said, on condition of anonymity.

Another senior police observed that the IB and NIA are more equipped than the state police. “They have sophisticated tools needed in dealing with such cases. Even the number of men on job is more, and they are constantly tracking terror suspects. It’s completely different from the functioning of the state organisations. Also, the IB will have inputs from all the states and they can easily find out the link one suspect is having with his associate in some other state. They have an edge over the state police.” But despite this limitation, he added that the state police have also cracked some terror cases independently.

Bengaluru's tryst with terror

Syed Ansar Qasmi was arrested by officials of the Anti-Terrorist Squad, Delhi, on January 7 this year from his house in Illyaz Nagar in the city after the police stumbled upon his name from the lips of two other Al-Qaeda operatives who were arrested recently and interrogated. Qasmi’s movements were monitored by the central and state police agencies.

Mehdi Masroor Biswas was arrested by the CCB sleuths from his rented house in North Bengaluru in December 2014. The 25-year-old pro-Islamic State (IS) Twitter account handler and sympathiser was arrested after a British media house broke the news of his twitter handle @Shamiwitness, and his virtual links with the IS terror module from the Levant region.

Dr. Syed Ismail Aafaaque and his brother Abdus Saboor, the two alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives were arrested from their residence in Cox Town in January 2015. It is said that Aafaaque, a homeopathic doctor, belonged to a top hierarchy in the IM, and has been trained by the ISI in Pakistan and is also an expert in making circuitry devices and other additives for explosives. Both the operatives were under the surveillance of the state police for a while. Two of their associates were also arrested.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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