Sri Lankan terrorism expert, Dr Rohan Gunaratna, considers the arrest of suspected Lankan Muslim terrorist Zakir Hussain in Chennai on Tuesday, and the busting of his outfit in Tamil Nadu as being “very significant” for the entire South Asian region.
Gunaratna, who heads the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, declined to reveal details, but said that cells such as Hussain’s have been functioning in Lanka, the Maldives and India, posing a “severe threat” to the entire region.
Author of an authoritative book on Al Qaida, Gunaratna told Express that Hussain was planning to attack targets in Lanka and the Maldives as well as India.
The fact that terror groups are becoming autonomous and developing a life of their own, is making them intractable, Gunaratna pointed out in his comments.
Lankan police spokesman Ajith Rohana said that the Indian authorities have not yet approached Lanka for help to investigate Hussein’s activities there.
The apprehended ISI agent and Lankan national Hussain was reportedly gathering information on diplomatic missions in the country as pictures of the US mission in the city were recovered from his possession. Sources said Hussain was assigned to recruit members for Pakistani-based terrorist outfits through networking in the banned outfits operating in the country in order to build a base in Chennai, which would facilitate sabotage missions in the city and at other vital installations, like was done in the case of the Mumbai terror attacks. He was assigned to gather details related to the US Consulate in Chennai and the Israeli Consulate in Bengaluru, to arrange for the necessary logistics and materials required for sabotage through his contacts. He was entrusted with the task of troubling the economy in the region by circulating counterfeit currency. An official privy to the investigation said that Hussain had been under surveillance by the Central agencies ever since he arrived in the city on a tourist visa.
M Daud Ehtisham, Press Attache at the Pakistan High Commission in Lanka, told Express that reports of Hussain working at the behest of Counselor (Visa) Amir Zubair Siddiqui, are “speculative” and appear to be part of a “malicious media campaign”. His remarks come after Hussain was arrested.
He maintained that Pakistan and its state institutions are responsible entities and do not indulge in such activities.
Gunaratna’s prognosis is that with the US reducing its military presence in Afghanistan, Islamic terrorist and extremist organizations are likely to proliferate and become more active all over South Asia. “It is, therefore, of critical importance for India, Lanka, and the Maldives to have a joint approach towards terrorism. It is time Lanka got a modern and integrated border protection agency comprising personnel from immigration, intelligence, customs, police, the armed forces, and the police narcotic bureau. While retaining the Visa on Arrival regime, Lanka should introduce a system by which the moment an individual buys an air ticket, the immigration authorities in Colombo will be able to check if he is on their data base on criminals,” he pointed out.