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The LeT Menace in Delhi

T. Khurshchev Singh was Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
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  • May 11, 2007

    The arrest of three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists on April 26, 2007 from Dilli Haat in New Delhi has once again exposed the challenge of terrorism confronting the capital. Attempts to target the National capital Region (NCR) is indicative of a broader trend of terrorists targeting mega cities in the country. Among the various terrorist outfits that seem to have a presence in New Delhi, the LeT appears to be the most dangerous and most persistent.

    The LeT trio arrested in Dilli Haat possessed two kilograms of Royal Demolition eXplosive (RDX), three detonators, two hand grenades, a timer and Rs. 25,000 in cash. Two of the arrested - Shafaqat Iqbal Mir and Shabbir Ahmed - are from Jammu & Kashmir, while the third - Abu Qasim, aka Mahammed Hassan - is a resident of Punjab in Pakistan. Their arrest was effected when the two Kashmiri operatives travelled to Delhi to hand over explosives to their Pakistani comrade. It has been learnt that Qasim worked for Abu Alqama, the LeT mastermind behind the October 29, 2005 multiple bomb blasts in Delhi. Delhi Police claim that the two Kashmiri operatives had received training in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and were under the direct supervision of Abu Ammar, the LeT chief in Jammu. Investigations have revealed that the plan was to carry out strikes on May 10, 2007 to coincide with the celebrations organised to mark the 150th anniversary of the 1857 Uprising. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Alok Kumar has suggested that the target could possibly have been the Red Fort where the celebrations took place.

    Terrorist activities in Delhi have steadily multiplied over the last few years, and the LeT seems to be at the forefront of this effort. 19 terrorists were arrested and killed in Delhi in 2005 as against 21 in 2006. Among the 14 arrested in 2005, six were from Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), one from Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), two from Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), two from Hizb-ul-Mujahidin (HM) and three from LeT. Among those killed in crossfire with the Delhi police in 2005 included five cadres of the LeT (two killed near Pragati Maidan and another three at Kakrola Mor in South-West Delhi). In 2006, out of 21 terrorists arrested, 17 were LeT cadres, while the other four belonged to Al-Badr (two), HM (one) and BKI (one).

    The statistics for 2007, between January and April, also seems to indicate the continuation of the above trend. Data in the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) suggests that about 10.6 kilograms of RDX (including two kilograms from Dilli Haat) along with other explosive devices were seized from different groups from various places in Delhi. On January 4, 2007 two suspected HuJI militants - Lutful Rahman, a Bangladeshi national and Mohammed Amin Wani, a J&K resident - were arrested from Adarsh Nagar in North-West Delhi and Nizamuddin in South Delhi, respectively. Amin Wani was apprehended with 1.6 kilograms of RDX, a detonator and a timer, while Lutuful Rahman was caught with Rs. 4.5 lakh. Subsequently, on January 25, the Special Cell of the Delhi Police arrested a suspected LeT militant at the Seelampur Metro station with 2.5 kilograms of RDX. Police claimed that the militant was on his way to hand over the explosives to a LeT module, which was planning to carry out attacks to coincide with Republic Day. Again, on February 4, four suspected JeM militants, including a Pakistani national, were arrested with three kilograms of RDX, four detonators, a timer, six hand grenades, a .30 bore firearm, US $10,000 and Rs. 50,000, following an encounter with the Delhi Police near Connaught Place.

    All this indicates that terrorist outfits are increasingly employing sophisticated devices like Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and RDX. For instance, the 2005 triple terror attacks on Sarojini Nagar, Paharganj and Govindpuri were carried out using IEDs, and resulted in the death of 59 people and injury to 155 others. This incident also illustrates the point that the aim of these terrorists is to carry out lethal strikes in order to have the maximum impact.

    Terrorists operating in Delhi are supported directly or indirectly by foreign intelligences like Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Bangladesh's Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI). On February 27, Captain Salim Zafar Azad, a suspected ISI agent, was arrested in a joint operation by military intelligence officials and the Special Cell of Delhi Police. He reportedly spent a few years in Bangladesh before moving to Delhi for an ISI mission. According to a Times of India report dated July 22, 2006, the ISI runs 256 modules across India. Under the aegis of the ISI, the DGFI and other external elements, the LeT has become one the most dynamic terrorist groups operating not just in Jammu and Kashmir but also in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Varanasi, and Kolkata. A few instances here would suffice to illustrate the expanding ambit of LeT operations: the December 2005 attack on the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) campus in Bangalore, the March 2006 attack in Varanasi, the June 1, 2006 attempt to attack the RSS Headquarters in Nagpur, the June 2006 serial bombings in Mumbai suburban trains.

    One recent development with respect to the LeT is its use of the sea route to infiltrate into India. On March 10, 2007, two of the outfit's operatives were arrested in Rajauri district of Jammu & Kashmir whose interrogation revealed that they had come into India in a group of eight on a boat from Karachi. According to a media report posted on January 3, 2007, an Intelligence Bureau assessment has claimed that some 600 LeT cadres, trained to handle large boats and in navigation skills, to lay land mines and explosives, and in surveillance methods are poised to infiltrate into the country through the coast line and island territories.

    The above indicates that the LeT's objective is not limited to the "liberation" of J&K, but extends to targeting all of India for the eventual goal of disintegrating the country and preventing its emergence as a major global player. Consequently, LeT terrorist strikes against Delhi and other places in India are likely to escalate further. It is imperative that the Indian government overhauls its security measures and enables better co-ordination and intelligence sharing among its various agencies in order to reduce the scope for terrorists to carry out their deadly strikes.