New playground of terror is Bihar
By Yatish Yadav
Published: 03rd Nov 2013 07:38:09 AM
Terror lives in the shadows like a hydra ever thirsty for the blood of innocents. It thrives in dusty outposts that time forgot, lurking in the claustrophobic alleys and back streets of small towns and the slums of cities, fed by the dark rhetoric of hate and nourished by the greed of power-hungry politicians and funded by Pakistan’s ISI. When one head is cut off, another rises in malignant reprisal. As the screenplay of the 27/10 blasts unspools, terror is found to have found a safe haven in Bihar where the chief minister plays on minority fears and presides over a dispirited police force lacking the will or wherewithal to curb the rise of Islamic terror and its Indian face, the Indian Mujahideen (IM). Sitiyo, a nondescript village near Ranchi in neighbouring Jharkhand, is on the counter-terrorism radar after the Patna bombing left six dead and 85 injured.
Proof came when intelligence agencies and NIA officials tracking the pugmarks of the absconding high profile IM operative Tehseen Akhtar stumbled upon a book by Al Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin Laden and audio CDs containing Jihadi speeches of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar from the house of his close aide Imtiaz Ansari.
The two significant seizures link Akhtar with Sitiyo, which was a fertile laboratory for IM operatives who set up its new module in Ranchi. Sources said the seed of the Ranchi module was sown in Bihar’s Darbhanga in February-March 2012 after central intelligence agencies busted the outfit’s hideout in Barhsamailla village in Darbhanga in November 2011.
By then it was too late and the IM had successfully penetrated various parts of Bihar including Madhubani, Samastipur and Muzaffarpur to recruit and train jihadis.
The October 27 rally at Narendra Modi’s Hunkar Rally in Patna has turned the focus of the country on the terror modules operating out of Bihar.
Although the security agencies of various states had captured around 15 suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) modules over the years, the IM outfit successfully carried out seven audacious attacks across the country, killing more than 80 and injuring around 500.
The Bihar government’s indifference to terror hideouts became notorious after the Sunday bombing on the Hunkar rally. Intelligence officials involved in counter-terror operations said the state government is responsible for harbouring terror elements in its backyard and ignored all of Centre’s warnings. The state even turned a blind eye to exclusive terror inputs forwarded by the Central intelligence agencies.
“This is because Nitish Kumar government is soft on terror and IM. He is a clever politician. He puts on a facade but when it comes to dealing with terrorists and Naxals, he politicises the issue for which I think the people of Bihar will have to pay a heavy price,” former top cop Prakash Singh said.
UNDER CM's NOSE
After the main recruiter and IED expert Atif Ameen was gunned down by the Special Cell of Delhi Police in the Batla House encounter in 2008, IM’s Azamgarh module was badly hit. The terror nursery produced some of the most wanted terrorists listed in home ministry’s dossier inviting a series of crackdowns by various agencies including Delhi Police and UP’s Anti-Terror Squad. The joint operation in the interior villages of eastern UP had neutralised IM talent spotters. Even after IM shifted its training school to Darbhanga, it was the Special Cell of the Delhi Police that carried out operations to nab modules in Darbhanga and Madhubani. But, the Bihar government ignored terror factories operating on its soil. Instead of aiding the police, Bihar strongly objected to the arrest of the alleged IM module operative Kafil Akhtar by the Karnataka Police last year. Kafil was wanted in the Chinnaswamy stadium blast case. Similarly, the state government protested a Maharashtra ATS and Delhi Police operation to apprehend members of IM’s Darbhanga and Madhubani modules and had even lodged a formal complaint with the home ministry. Kumar wrote to the then Karnataka CM accusing Karnataka Police of inappropriate behaviour. In a veiled warning, Nitish said action could have led to serious issues of law and order and endangered the safety and security of the visiting police officers themselves.
“This is beyond law and order and matter of national security. There is prescribed practice and convention for joint effort and assisting agencies tracking terrorists. States cannot interfere when it comes to terrorism,” former IB chief D C Pathak said. The police of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu recently carried out joint operations to neutralise dreaded terrorists Fakruddin and Bilal. The teams in a well coordinated operation nabbed three most wanted terrorists from Puttur, who were planning to attack BJP leader Modi. These incidents were handled by former Home Secretary R K Singh who accused Bihar Police of inaction in neutralising terror modules. Singh said while other states had carried out anti-terror operations in Bihar’s districts to arrest modules involved in various bombing, the Bihar police had no clue to the presence of the terrorists.
After the Patna attack, Nitish sprang a surprise by claiming that the state police possesses no data on terrorists and requested Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde to order a probe by the National Investigation Agency. The casual statement after a series of blasts in the capital city came as a shocker to officials looking after the nation’s security.
But, a serving police officer on condition of anonymity said he had never witnessed such a phenomenon and had no idea of terror modules sprouting on Bihar’s soil.
Pathak said Bihar has always been vulnerable to terror modules, but the state government woke up late. “Since the late 1990s, jihadis are using the porous Nepal border to facilitate terrorist traffic from Pakistan, to set up terror modules in Bihar and parts of Uttar Pradesh to carry out strikes in areas other than J&K. The ISI exploits these open routes to UP and Bihar to support the jihadi infrastructure. The states never tried to probe and track down these elements. They woke up only when there were blasts in their backyard,” Pathak said.
DARBHANGA TO RANCHI
Dr Imran was a ‘laptop jihadi’ for his Karimganj friends and a young businessman-turned-doctor for locals. Under Nitish’s nose, armed with hundreds of video clips containing Jihadi Taqreer (provocative speeches) Imran alias Yasin Bhatkal raised a battery of terror modules in Barh Samailla and Karimganj towns of Darbhanga in 2008-2009. One of the most talented of them was Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu alias Dilkash, a native of Samastipur and alleged mastermind of the Patna bombings. Sources said Tehseen was well trained by Bhatkal in making IEDs along with 25 other IM operatives in Darbhanga, who successfully bombed Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Bodh Gaya and Hyderabad.
The arrest of Qateel Siddique and Sadiq exposed the Darbhanga module but the Bihar government turned a blind eye, emboldening the fundamentalists. The Madhubani module was busted by the Delhi Police Special Cell when it picked up the Pakistani terrorist Ajmal from a village near Madhubani along with Abdul Jamali, a Darbhanga module member trained by Bhatkal.
However, Director General of Police Jharkhand, Rajeev Kumar, said the IM operatives are not shifting base to Ranchi. He said the complicity of four to five suspects from Ranchi came to light in the Patna bombings and cannot be termed as ‘new terror base’.
Prakash Singh said when prized catch Yasin Bhatkal was arrested in August, the Bihar police wanted to question him but did a U-turn three hours later admitting it doesn’t have the political clearance.
A senior Intelligence official said the Darbhanga module was typical example of how terrorists operate. He said a terror module utility is over the moment it is over-used by the handler or is exposed after arrest of its members. This is what happened with Bhatkal in Karnataka and Azamgarh. They were exposed by the security agencies and the handlers simply shifted the recruitment and training ground to Darbhanga.
“Tabrez had asked Tehseen to focus on Ranchi and not on Muzaffarpur. Tehseen realised that youths in Ranchi could be brain-washed more easily. However, the group maintained that their number one target was Modi,” sources said.
GEN NEXT TERRORISTS
Imtiaz, who was arrested in connection with the Patna bombings, told interrogators that Tehseen and Haider had recruited a 10-member cell for the Ranchi module to carry out serial blasts in Patna. Jharkhand DGP Rajeev said after Bhatkal’s arrest, Tehseen, who is considered second in the hierarchy, has taken charge of terror outfit and is being supported by Aurangabad native Haider.
“Another suspect Mohammed Ujair has also been arrested. We will probe the Ranchi connection further to neutralise them,” DGP Rajeev added.
Tarique Ansari, Toufiqe Ansari and Noman were recruited by Imtiaz and the plan was finalised at a meeting held around October 19-20 when Tehseen was asked to recruit 7-8 more people for a ‘bada kaam’ in the coming week.
“In those parts of the country, if you stay back in the village, you will be considered socially backward. IM operative Tehseen exploited this psychology by promising them jobs in cities like Kolkata and Mumbai. UP and Bihar has nothing to offer the youth. They are perfect hunting grounds for terrorist outfits,” said an official.
Terror has a new address. And the postman has come knocking in Patna even as the chief minister sleeps.