December 14, 2001


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B Raman

The attack on democracy

In an analysis, dated November 5, 2001, this writer had stated as follows:

"Though the horrendous terrorist strikes of September 11, 2001, in New York and Washington DC were carried out on a Tuesday, the previous major strikes of the terrorist organisations, which are members of
Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the US and Israel, were generally, but not always, carried out on a Friday.

"The Fridays of the holy fasting period of Ramzan are particularly important for them for reminding the world of their presence, their faith and their objective. Friday is often the preferred day for terrorist acts meant by them to be acts of punishment inflicted on those whom they view as their enemy.

"There is, therefore, an urgent need for heightened vigilance in the days preceding and during the forthcoming Ramzan fasting period, starting from November 17, 2001, all over the world and particularly in the US, the UK and India. This becomes even more necessary after a careful examination of the video-recording of bin Laden's latest message telecast by the Al Jazeera TV channel of Qatar on November 3, 2001."

Many of the spectacular terrorist incidents attributed to either bin Laden's International Islamic Front for Jihad against the US and Israel (formed in 1998) or to Islamic organisations which joined this front after its formation took place during Ramzan, generally on a Friday, but sometimes on other days too.

Among such attacks which took place during the fasting period, one could cite the New York World Trade Centre explosion of February, 1993, and the Mumbai blasts of March, 1993. Of course, the Mumbai blasts, which struck important economic targets, were organised by the ISI directly through Dawood Ibrahim, the notorious narcotics smuggler, and not through any of the organisations, which now form part of bin Laden's front. But, the ISI chose the Friday of the fasting period for the strike in order to convey a message that these explosions were meant to be a punishment for the sufferings of the Muslims of Mumbai during the preceding communal riots.

There are three categories of terrorist acts -- objective terrorism, which is meant to make known to the world the objective of the terrorists; demand terrorism, which is meant to achieve a specific demand; and punishment terrorism, which is meant to punish an identified enemy.

When terrorists undertake objective and demand terrorism, they identify themselves and make known their objective or demand since they want their followers and the rest of the world to know that they were behind the act of terrorism.

When they undertake punishment terrorism, they do not do so and leave the victim guessing as to who could have been behind the act. The pre-1994 terrorist united front led by Carlos carried out some acts of punishment terrorism directed against its identified enemies of international capitalism or Zionism for which it did not claim responsibility.

Osama bin Laden, who had spent some months in Khartoum, Sudan, at the same time as Carlos, who is now in jail in France, ordered a number of acts of punishment terrorism against the US after the formation of his international front in 1998, for which no claim for responsibility was made.

Amongst such acts of punishment terrorism for which no responsibility was claimed, one could mention the explosions in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in 1998, the attack on a US naval ship in Aden in 2000 and the terrorist strikes of September 11, 2001.

Bin Laden wears two hats. He is the head of the Al Qaeda, which is a Saudi-centric, exclusively Arab organisation, consisting largely of Saudis, Yemenis, Egyptians and some Algerians. At the same time, he is the head of the International Islamic Front, which is a conglomerate of about a dozen Islamic terrorist organisations of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, the Xinjiang province of China and the southern Philippines.

From Pakistan, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Sipah-e-Sahaba are known to be members of the front. The Jaish-e-Mohammad is suspected to be a member. The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen had issued its first fatwa against the US and Israel in 1998.

Of these, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad have been behind most of the acts of terrorism by Islamic groups in Jammu & Kashmir and in New Delhi. Even according to the annual report of the US State Department on the Patterns of Global Terrorism released on April 30, 2001, these are almost totally Pakistani organisations operating in India from rear bases in Pakistan. The Sipah-e-Sahaba is an extremist Sunni organisation, which has been behind the massacres of Shias in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

While the Al Qaeda, the exclusively Arab organisation, has not come to notice for any presence in Indian territory after the Kargil conflict of 1999 when it was used by Gen Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani components of bin Laden's Front, namely, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Tayiba, and the Jaish-e-Mohammad have been very active.

They look upon J&K as the gateway to India and describe their objective not only as the merger of J&K with Pakistan, but also as the 'liberation' of the Muslims living in other parts of India and the creation of two more 'homelands' for them. They also want to fight for the restoration of the Mughal rule in India and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba talks of the days when it would hoist the flag of Islam on the Red Fort.

These organisations have been demanding that bin Laden's front should be renamed as the International Islamic Front For Jihad Against the US, Israel and India since they identify India too as the enemy of Islam. Bin Laden has been in favour of their demand, but the other components of the front have not been agreeable to this.

During the current US-led allied operations against international terrorism in Afghanistan, between 8,000 and 14,000 Pakistanis are reported to have been killed by the US air strikes or to be missing in action. While some of them were serving and retired members of Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment, the majority belonged to the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.

These organisations have, therefore, cause for anger against not only the US, but also India which is seen by the jihadi organisations of Pakistan as responsible for the disastrous setback to Pakistan's presence in Afghanistan, and for the humiliation inflicted on the Pakistanis by the people of Kabul and other towns after their liberation from the control of the Taliban.

Whoever might claim responsibility for the terrorist strikes on the Indian Parliament on the forenoon of December 13, 2001, the involvement of one of the Pakistani components of bin Laden's front is a strong possibility. Apart from strengthening security measures around all vital installations, including the offices of the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency, security and air cover for the US naval ships visiting Indian ports should also be stepped up.

The American white convert to the Taliban, who was recently arrested in Mazar-e-Sharif, is reported to have told the US authorities that the Al Qaeda was planning an attack of bio terrorism in the US during the Ramzan period. More attacks in India too, conventional or unconventional, is a possibility.

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai.

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