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Who could the terrorists be?

By Rediff News Bureau
Last updated on: July 18, 2006 11:49 IST
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To understand the magnitude and significance of last week's serial blasts in Mumbai from a police angle, correspondents spoke to a senior police officer. Speaking on condition that he would not be identified for this report, this is his assessment:

Whenever we make a seizure like the one where arms and explosives were seized in Maharashtra in May, we must expect retaliation.

After the accused in the August 2003 blasts were arrested, the terrorists must have gone into preparatory mode, putting new people in place, taking care that they would not be caught, learning from the mistakes of those who have been caught.

When a terror module is neutralised by the police, we publicise our achievement to demonstrate to the terrorists that we have the upper hand. On the other side, those in charge of the terror operation try and convince new recruits that the others got caught because they had made mistakes or were scared.

It is a mind game on both sides.

After the March 12, 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai, the terror coordinators in Pakistan realised it was folly to rely on gangsters to conduct terror operations. They used the underworld in 1993 because they did not have anyone then to do the logistics. They had the bombs but they needed people to place them.

After many of the accused in the 1993 blasts were arrested, the terror coordinators realised that when the underworld is used, secrecy is never maintained. These underworld people also talk. Also, the underworld is mercenary, doing it for money or because "Bhai ne kaha karne ke liye (the Boss told us to do it)) -- and not for the qoum (the community) or mazhab (faith).

After the communal riots of 1993, the terror coordinators realised they had a readymade infrastructure in groups like SIMI. After the Gujarat riots a whole number of revenge forces have mushroomed.

They usually consist of white collar individuals, novices without a criminal record. They are pious, perform namaaz five times a day, and usually meet after prayers.

They are educated and plan out things much better. They also ensure that secrecy is maintained. They do it (terrorism) for ideology, do not fear arrest, and death does not matter to them.

After the Gujarat riots there has been unbelievable indoctrination, leading to the unlikeliest people taking to terrorism.

Unlike the underworld, these groups are not easily penetrated by our Intelligence. They don't visit beer bars, don't indulge in loose talk. After the accused in the 2002-2003 blasts were arrested, the police discovered that even the people at the mosque did not know who these men were, such was their low profile.

There is also excessive reliance by the police on technical intelligence -- tapping phones, accessing e-mail. Very little value is placed these days on human intelligence where policemen cultivate a network of informants for years and do the legwork necessary to obtain information.

Human intelligence needs enormous patience. You may have 10 informers -- of which all or a part may fail. But you must stay your ground and nurture the informants so that you get the information when you need it.

Officers in a unit like the Anti Terrorism Squad must not have a fixed tenure. Tenure must be based on expertise and performance so that these officers have the time needed to penetrate these terror groups and neutralise them.

What do we need to fight terror?

  • Good Intelligence.
  • An alert public.
  • Political will. TADA came, TADA went. POTA came, POTA went. We must have the legal provisions necessary to fight terrorism.
  • Next: What is a terror module?

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