Monday, February 18, 2008

Growing terror in the south

Following the foiled attack on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the subsequent arrest of six Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists on 10 Feb 2008 by UP’s special task force, Bangalore has once again come back into focus as a target for terror attacks.

Dhanya Krishankumar

The confessions of those arrested reveal that their initial target was the Indian Space and Research Organization (ISRO) in Bangalore in 2005, and one of the LeT operatives, Sabauddin, who has confessed to his involvement in the terror attack on Indian Institute of Science (IISc), has now admitted to conducting a recce at the ISRO campus. But the heightened security and his inability to strike a rapport with members of the security team forced his team to abandon the proposed attack on ISRO and look at other possible locations.

Sources say, Sabauddin even confessed to have carefully studied the time taken by city transport to reach ISRO, and also the time required to travel from the ISRO campus to his house. And the confessions and chilling revelations continue even as a team from Karnataka heads to UP to assist in the investigations.

South India has overnight emerged as the hub of terrorist groups waiting to strike. Anti-terrorism experts warn that attacking Bangalore would be a logical step for the jihadis at a time when India is becoming an economic power and, therefore, IT hubs like Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad seem attractive targets. And the recent unearthing of terror training camps in the forests bordering North Karnataka following the arrests of Mohammed Ghouse, Asadullah Aboobaker and Mohammed Asif in Bangalore has merely exposed how deep the terror network has penetrated some of the southern cities.

Interrogations have also revealed that the real threat comes not from Kashmiri militants but from local Kannadigas who are being indoctrinated into joining terror groups. Bangalore, the coastal areas and Gulbarga region are the most terrorist-infested areas in the state. These areas have become a hub for terrorists from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Gulf countries.

The worrying fact is that the police and intelligence agencies are not equipped to deal with the rising terrorist activities. In 1992, the State administration constituted The Anti Terrorist Squad to deal with terror. But so far other than being rechristened as the Anti Terrorist Cell (ATC); and growing from a one-man army to a unit with three people, not much progress has been made. Unlike the Mumbai ATC, which has a dedicated team of trained officers who focus on curbing terror in the state and country, the Karnataka ATC is only a coordinating agency. According to officers, the state ATC merely collates information and passes on the alerts to the state police who have the jurisdiction to act on the information.

Karnataka emerging as a new base for such terrorist activity is not a healthy sign for the people, the industry or business,” says N. Reghuraj, chairman of CII (southern region). “We will meet the government soon, with requests to come out with a suitable policy to prevent any more mishaps and future problems.”

Bottom line, even as the shocking revelations of terrorist activities in the state keep flowing in, it’s high time the police and political establishments in the state formulate a strategy to handle the looming crisis without brushing it under the carpet till tragedy strikes again.