Wednesday, August 01, 2007

India and the Jihadist Pit

I understand that stratfor has tons of info that most people don't have, and time and other resources. And they must have big brains too.
However, I have to say that they tend to gloss over things that I feel are absolute threats against us, and I do not share their willingness to, in the end, be politically correct and find a reason to end on a high note.
Maybe they know something I don't know, but I will never take the security of my country lightly again.
Do they happen to mention in this article that 80% of US HB1 hightech visas are issued to India? Do they mention the huge numbers of Indian immigrants, legal and illegal, in our country now and wonder how long India has been importing Jihadism into their own country?
Does this even occur to them?
By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart
The arrest of three foreign Muslim doctors in connection with the failed June 29-30 bombings in London and Glasgow, Scotland, has caused the British government to initiate a review of the process by which the National Health Service recruits doctors from abroad. This case, however, raises concerns far beyond the British Isles. Of the five main suspects in the case, three were born and raised in India -- in the high-tech hub of Bangalore, no less -- a fact that might suggest India is breeding transnational jihadists. Moreover, this Bangalore connection has raised fears among the city's foreign-owned technology companies.
India has had problems with Islamist militant groups since its independence. For most of this time, the militants -- whose goals are largely separatist/nationalist in nature -- have focused on India itself. Over the past few years, though, India's radical Islamist groups have begun to flirt with the concept of transnational jihadism as embraced by al Qaeda. However, while three of the suspects in the United Kingdom plot are Indian and do appear to have been motivated by jihadist ideology, this case does not signify that India has fallen into the jihadist pit -- at least not yet.
The Suspects
The alleged driver of the burning Jeep Cherokee that crashed into the front of the airport in Glasgow on June 30 was 27-year-old Kafeel Ahmed, born in Bangalore to parents who are both medical doctors. He graduated from the University BDT College of Engineering in Davangere, Karnataka state, before moving to Europe to complete his studies. Ahmed earned a master's degree in aeronautical engineering at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and a doctorate in aeronautical engineering from Anglia Polytechnic University in Cambridge, England. After completing his studies, Ahmed reportedly worked as a design engineer for Infotech Enterprises in Bangalore from December 2005 to July 2006 and then returned to the United Kingdom.
Ahmed, who apparently expected to die in the Glasgow attack, left a suicide note that was recovered by British authorities. However, when the device failed to explode and instead burst into flames, Ahmed reportedly suffered burns over 90 percent of his body and remains in critical condition at a Glasgow hospital. It is unknown whether he will ever recover consciousness. Presumably because of his injuries, he has not been charged in the case.
Ahmed's alleged co-pilot on his ill-fated attempt at Glasgow Airport is an Iraqi doctor named Bilal Abdullah, who has been charged with conspiracy to cause explosions in connection with the case. Mohammed Asha, 26, a Palestinian raised in Jordan, also has been arrested and charged with conspiracy to cause explosions.
The Indian-born Muslim charged in the case is Kafeel Ahmed's younger brother, 26-year-old Sabeel Ahmed. Sabeel Ahmed studied medicine at Bangalore's BR Ambedkar Medical College, part of the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, before going to the United Kingdom to practice medicine. He was not in the car driven into the Glasgow Airport and has not been charged as a participant in the plot. Instead, British authorities charged him July 14 with having information that could have prevented an act of terrorism.
A third Indian Muslim from Bangalore, Mohammed Haneef, who also is a medical doctor and a cousin of the Ahmed brothers, was arrested July 3 in Brisbane, Australia. The Australian criminal charges against Haneef were dropped July 27 and he returned to Bangalore three days later -- though Indian authorities said Aug. 1 the investigation of Haneef is intensifying, based on Australia's release a day earlier of Internet chat conversations he had with his brother and cousins.
Militant Islamism in India
For the most part, India-based Islamist militants traditionally have staged their attacks in India (mostly inside Jammu and Kashmir) and have not ascribed to the wider transnational jihadist agenda. One reason for this narrow focus is that many of the militant Islamist groups operating in India are sponsored by Pakistan, which has used these groups as tools to pressure and destabilize India and does not want to see its proxies take on a wider-ranging philosophy.
Over the past few years, however, Stratfor has observed a growing nexus between transnational jihadists -- al Qaeda and its affiliates -- and militant Islamist groups operating out of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. On the propaganda front, videos containing footage from al Qaeda and Taliban training camps and interspersed with recordings of Osama bin Laden calling for Muslims to join the jihad have appeared in the Patna and Bhojpur districts of Bihar in northeastern India. Additionally, on June 8, a DVD was sent to media organizations in Srinagar, the summer capital of India's Jammu and Kashmir state, that contained a declaration of war against India. The statement was presented by a man wearing a black mask who claimed to be a top al Qaeda cadre named Abu Abdul Rehman Ansari. A man using that same name called a Kashmiri news agency in July 2006, claiming al Qaeda had established a new group in Jammu and Kashmir and congratulating the perpetrators of the July 2006 Mumbai train bombings -- bombings that just happened to bear the trademarks of jihadist attacks against public rail systems elsewhere.
In November 2006, airports in India were placed on high alert following separate threats that al Qaeda was planning car bombings at Indian airports and hijackings of U.S.-bound aircraft departing from Indian airports. Kashmiri militant groups appear to be among those who have seen the value of adopting the al Qaeda brand name.
Historically, al Qaeda's core leadership has paid only limited attention to India, though bin Laden did call for Kashmiri Muslims to rise up and fight the "grand Zionist-Hindu conspiracy against Islam" in an April 2006 communique. Because al Qaeda lacks both its own structure in India and a strong support network there, it has chosen to rely on Kashmiri groups such as the splintered remnants of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) (which formally ceased to exist in December 2001) to act on its behalf. Al Qaeda thus far has limited itself to providing support and guidance, leaving tactical issues to local militant operatives.
Beyond the rhetoric, a number of recent attacks also have revealed how these Kashmiri groups have become increasingly influenced by al Qaeda tactics. They not only have begun to focus on conducting operations in India beyond Jammu and Kashmir but also have conducted more spectacular attacks, such as the July 2006 railway bombings in Mumbai and the February explosions and fires that killed almost 70 people aboard an India-to-Pakistan passenger train. Al Qaeda-influenced Kashmiri militants also have made a move toward Muslim-on-Muslim attacks against religious targets. These are aimed at inflaming communal tensions and creating the conditions necessary for militant cells to take root throughout the country.
As we have noted previously, this shift by Kashmiri militant groups toward transnational jihadism can be attributed to the gradual breakdown of Pakistani handlers' control over their militant proxies. This trend should grow stronger as the remnants of LeT continue to splinter (thus making them harder to control), and as Pakistan further destabilizes -- undercutting the influence of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Even if the Pakistan People's Party were to return to power in Pakistan, there are few who think a Bhutto government could contain Islamist extremism, and such a turn of events would serve to further erode Pakistani control of its militant proxies.
The Indian Intelligence Bureau
To help place this threat in better perspective, it is useful to look at the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB), India's main domestic security and counterterrorism force. Most senior Indian intelligence officials were trained by the Soviets during the Cold War and/or have had British training. As a result, the IB exhibits efficiency and a certain level of sophistication, though it does have a reputation for brutality.
For years, the IB's top counterterrorism targets were Sikh and Tamil extremists, who were considered a larger threat than the Islamists. The IB lost two prime ministers to terrorist assassinations: Indira Gandhi, who was killed by a Sikh assassin, and her son Rajiv Gandhi, who was killed by a Tamil suicide bomber. The IB also has traditionally focused on the hunt for Pakistani agents who have infiltrated the country.
The IB's strength lies in its ability to conduct surveillance. It is among the world's five best intelligence services when it comes to conducting physical surveillance, bugging hotel rooms and carrying out black bag jobs. However, the IB has not been terribly successful at developing human assets inside the militant Islamist groups. Moreover, while its senior officers are talented, its large cadre of working-level officers is weak.
The bottom line is that sophisticated transnational jihadist operatives could operate in India because the IB simply does not have robust intelligence capabilities at the working level. The IB has been successful in picking up on less-skilled operatives, however.
High-Tech Repercussions
One of India's main ongoing fears is that Kashmiri militants who have begun to target other parts of India, as well as conduct spectacular attacks, will fix their sights on the high-tech firms operating in India. Many of these companies have extensive operations in Bangalore, the hometown of the Ahmed brothers -- a fact the security directors of the tech firms operating in India have not missed. Since the attacks in the United Kingdom, Indian authorities have asked information technology companies in Bangalore and Hyderabad, another high-tech hub, to step up security. Karnataka has even set up a new counterterrorism unit for Bangalore that mirrors the unit previously established in Mumbai.
The Ahmed brothers' alleged connection to the failed bombings has raised further concerns among tech firms operating in India. The shooting death of Professor Emeritus M.C. Puri at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore in late December 2005 was the first concrete sign that the threat is serious. Then, one of the suspects arrested in connection with the Mumbai train bombings last year was reported to have worked for Oracle in Mysore. Shortly after that arrest, IB officials reportedly told high-tech companies that they had even more jihadists working for them. The fact that the Ahmed brothers come from Bangalore, and that Kafeel actually had worked for Infotech Enterprises in Bangalore, will serve to throw even more gas on the fire.
The Implications
Despite all these factors, India has not fallen into the jihadist pit quite yet. The attempted bombings in the United Kingdom are not a sign that Indian Muslims have ventured into the transnational jihadist camp.
In fact, India's Muslim community has not provided a strong radical current for jihadists to exploit. It is important to note that the Ahmed brothers were not radicalized in India (or even in Saudi Arabia, where they lived for a time). Rather, they were radicalized while living in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Londonistan has a history of doing that to impressionable Muslim lads. For instance, it is telling that Kafeel allegedly conducted his operation with his friends in the United Kingdom and not his friends in Bangalore.
According to our information, al Qaeda is not focusing on India, largely because it believes there is no real hope of stirring up a jihadist uprising there. Indeed, Indian Muslims are far more integrated in India than they are in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Additionally, Indian Muslims are much more moderate and tend to practice the Sufi form of Islam. Al Qaeda also is concerned about being betrayed by Pakistani assets in India.
This source information has been supported by events on the ground. In spite of the attempts to provoke communal violence inside India by attacking both Hindu and Muslim religious sites, the majority of Indian Muslims have not taken the bait -- much to the dismay of these militant groups. Therefore, the largest jihadist threat to targets in India right now appears to be Indian Muslims who are radicalized outside India. The large number of Indian Muslims studying abroad could include some who will return home as jihadists and infiltrate Western high-tech companies operating in India.


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