In the crosshairs

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A recent Al-qaeda threat to a Tamil daily has shown that India is very much on its radar. Security forces would do well to gird up their act [/h2]

By Vishwas Kumar


A week after terrorists attacked French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris and killed several of its sta-ffers, a Tamil daily, Dina-malar, received a letter by post at its Chennai office from Al-Qaeda, threatening it with similar punishment.
The letter, addressed to the daily’s editor and signed in Al-Qaeda’s name, delivered the chilling message: “Yesterday Paris—Charlie Hebdo, Tomorrow Dinamalar”. It carried a map of India with the message typed across and a picture of Al-Qaeda’s deceased leader, Osama bin Laden, on the right-hand side, with the message, “By Al-Qaeda”, typed in English and Arabic.

Incidentally, in 2009, the FBI foiled a plot to attack Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which had published caricatures of Prophet Mohammad in 2005. Later, Charlie Hebdo decided to republish these caricatures and on September 2, 2008, Dinamalar’s Vell-ore edition did the same, creating a huge uproar. Media reports say Muslim agitators first stoned the office of the newspaper and later, destroyed four state-run buses. Around 200 agitators were detained even as the police registered a case.
Ever since, the newspaper has remained under threat from Muslim outfits.

Journalists, policemen, and emergency services in the street of the shooting, a few hours after the January 2015 attack (2)

In 2009, the FBI foiled a plot to attack Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten which had published caricatures of Prophet Mohammad in 2005

 

EXPANDING OPERATIONS

Intelligence agencies too are not taking any chances after Al-Qaeda last year declared its intention to expand operations in India. The Charlie Hebdo issue has already seen violent protests in Pakistan and Afghanistan and in Kashmir Valley. Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups are trying to cash in on this to start a fresh round of anti-national activities.

In fact, there is a direct connection between the Paris attacks and the Mumbai attacks of 2008. Propaganda videos, literature and articles recovered from terrorists in recent years have revealed that Osama still inspires Pakistan-based terror groups. The 9/11 attacks by Al-Qaeda made Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed execute the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in 2008. Both attacks have similarities in motives, style and execution. The attackers were well-trained, planned their attacks carefully and their motive was to grab international headlines.

The only difference was that the target selected in the Paris attack was already identified, whereas in Mumbai, it was random. “…Add to this the high drama that Mumbai and Paris-style attacks generate—televised scenes of manhunts, special forces and sieges—and they begin to look like an even more attractive force-multiplier. For the aim is never simply to kill for the sake of killing. Such attacks are always planned with broader political goals in mind. The key to defeating the extremists lies in seeing past the horror and understanding their logic,” wrote Matthew Green, a correspondent covering Afghanistan and Pakistan for Reuters.

 

…the aim is never simply to kill for the sake of killing. Such attacks are always planned with broader political goals in mind. The key to defeating the extremists lies in seeing past the horror and understanding their logic.” Ayman al-Zawahiri

 

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Key plotters (From top) Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden and David Headley

NEFARIOUS DESIGNS

One of the key plotters in the Danish attack was Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahri and masterminded by a Pakistani named Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri, who was trained to carry out terrorist attacks in India before joining Al-Qaeda. In 2009, Kashmiri used an American—David Headley—to reconnoiter the Danish plot. He played a major role in planning and preparing the November 2008 attack on Mumbai and was also sent by Kashmiri to Copenhagen to plan an attack on Jyllands-Posten offices. It seems Zawahri later assigned another team to execute the plot against Charlie Hebdo. Headley was later arrested by the FBI.

Al-Qaeda’s key objective behind the Paris attack was to galvanize the organization once at the heart of Islamic terrorism but gradually declined when American started its war on terror after 9/11. However, with Charlie Hebdo’s successful attack, the Al-Qaeda has announced its return with a bang.

This is a cause for real concern for Indian security agencies as this attack could be repeated in Indian cities with the help of its affiliated organizations like the LeT. The timing is also significant as it is close to the complete withdrawal of US security forces from Afghanistan. This would free several thousand battle-hardened, well-trained terrorists who were earlier fighting the “bigger evil”, i.e. US forces. Security analysts say most of them would be diverted across the border to India by the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

Looks like tough times are ahead for our security forces.

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