On May 3, 20-year-old migrant Sonu Singh arrived with his family at Hoogly Station in West Bengal from Auran-gabad, Bihar only to discover that his black suitcase containing utensils had been switched during the journey.
Two days later, he opened the black bag in front of his family at Rishra municipality house and found it packed with ammonium nitrate gelatin sticks and electrical detonators.
Hoping to recover some of his loss from scrap, he tried to cut the aluminum detonator and lost his life as the device exploded injuring five other family members.
The case, now examined for its possible terror links, highlights the easy availability of explosives and detonators to extremist groups within the country.
Cut to Bangalore. On April 17, security agencies suspect that Panna Ismail of the banned Tamil Nadu-based terror group Al Ummah, earlier indicted for trying to assassinate LK Advani in 1998 Coimbatore blasts, tried to blow the state BJP headquarter using a motor-cycle bomb.
While the hunt is on to nab Ismail, one of the co-conspirators Syed “Kitchen” Bukhari revealed during interrogation that an IED with ammonium nitrate gel sticks, a second hand motor-cycle and logistics cost merely Rs.50,000.
The same cheap fertiliser bombs rigged on two bicycles were used to kill 17 and maim 119 apparently by Indian Mujahideen (IM), an indigenous terror group, at Dilsukhnagar, Hyderabad on February 21.
The only terror action attributed to Pak-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) was a suicide attack on a CRPF camp in Srinagar on March 13 in retaliation to the hanging of Afzal Guru for his role in Parliament attack.
This, significantly, was the first terror attack directly involving Pak-based groups since 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Counter-terrorism experts believe that even though the capacity and intent of Pak-based jihadist groups has not diminished, the pressure on international community particularly the US will ensure that threats will reduce but Kashmir will continue to be on terror radar.
That attacks will remain a legitimate game for Pakistan is evident from the cross-border communication intercepts goading Valley based terrorists to get into action and revenge threats issued by LeT chief Hafiz Saeed and JeM chief Masood Azhar.
“Tactical manoeuvring shouldn’t be considered as a change in strategic paradigm. There is no strategic shift on terrorism against India in Pakistan but tactical opportunities have been limited due to external and internal compulsions,” says Ajit Doval, ex-director, Intelligence Bureau (IB) and counter-terror expert.
The terror threat from Bangladesh is diminished due to the pro-active Sheikh Hasina government but a weak Nepal continues to be a fertile ground for Pak-based groups.
With ammonium nitrate and detonators easily available, India is vulnerable from indigenous self-radicalised groups with simple bomb making techniques available online.
The Boston Marathon bombings showed that self-radicalised individuals are difficult to detect even in most secure societies in the West.
The arrest of 15 youth from Hubli, Hyderabad and Nanded by National Investigation Agency (NIA) last August revealed that they were trying to contact known Pak-based LeT operative Fahatullah Ghori and his Saudi Arabia-based Abdul Majid for terror attacks after getting radicalised on the net.
While Ghori is wanted in the Akshardham attack case, Majid is the brother of LeT-HUJI operative Shahid Bilal, who was killed by ISI in 2007.
The threat from radicalised Hindu groups has diminished since the arrests of Lt Col P S Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya of Abhinav Bharat group with the efforts from IB and Andhra Pradesh Police in 2008 but the same cannot be says about the IM.
The 2008 Batla House police encounter did decimate the Azamgarh module of Atif Ameen, which thrived on grievances of the minority community.
A section of Indian Muslims feel that they don’t get justice within the system and thus take to arms not to propagate Islam but to get even.
The November 2007 bomb attack on UP courts was in retaliation to the security agencies allegedly implicating Phulpur cleric Waliullah in the March 2006 Varanasi blast case just as August 2007 Hyderabad bombing was IM’s response to May 2007 Mecca Masjid bombing by Hindu fundamentalists.
The minority community is perhaps not wrong when it wants the 2005 Delhi Diwali blasts and July 2006 Mumbai train bombings to be reinvestigated as there is a perception that innocents have been booked.
The hush word among security agencies is that Atif’s module was responsible for both the attacks with explosives provided by HUJI courier Babu Bhai, jailed since 2007.
Apparently when banned SIMI chief Safdar Nagori was arrested in 2008, he begged his interrogator to release Ehtesham Siddiqui, former SIMI operative and the main accused in Mumbai train blasts, as he was not involved in the attack and hang him instead.
“Till the time Indian police doesn’t conduct impartial investigations and nail the correct perpetrators through scientific investigations, it will be difficult to remove this feeling of insecurity among the minority community. This insecurity feeds into fear and in turn into revenge,” says a senior official.
Apart from taking the minority communities including Sikhs into confidence, there is an urgent need to expand the human intelligence network on ground to understand the radical mindset.
Compared to British Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) and American National Security Agency (NSA), the Indian capability to monitor internet and communications is miniscule besides its coverage of adversaries like Pakistan and beyond.
Due to lack of funds, resources and initiative, the Indian penetration in terror groups and adversaries is so inadequate that the latest photograph of UN designated terrorist Dawood Ibrahim is not available with the security agencies.
India continues to live on the edge and run on luck when it comes to terror.