Intel agencies warn against threat to Israeli tourists in Rajasthan

  • Shishir Gupta and Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Oct 23, 2013 12:46 IST

Israel was briefed last month about a possible Indian Mujahideen (IM) attack against  the country’s nationals visiting  Rajasthan, said home ministry and Israeli sources. The threats against Israelis are being seen as further evidence that a section of the IM has adopted the pan-Islamicist agenda of al Qaeda.

 The home ministry carried out a joint security review of Pushkar, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer — all popular tourist destinations for Israeli and other foreign tourists — with the Rajasthan police. The Israeli embassy was briefed by Indian counterterrorism officials, but did not issue a warning to tourists “beyond the normal.”

 The existence of a Rajasthan IM module was revealed by the investigation that followed the recent arrest of IM co-founder Yasin Bhatkal. He revealed that IM has split on ideological lines.

A Brahma temple in Pushkar was cited by Bhatkal as being particularly popular among Israelis. This temple had been considered by Lashkar-e-Tayyeba scout David Headley as a terror target.

 The IM cluster led by Iqbal Bhatkal, Riyaz Bhatkal and Mohsin Choudhary takes its cue from the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence agency. The ISI wants the terrorist group to remain focused on mainland India.

 The Pakistanis are also nervous about putting Israeli in the crosshairs given the Jewish state’s policy of violent retaliation against terror attacks. Sources have claimed that after the Mumbai 26/11 attack, the Pakistan military sent an unofficial message through the Turkish army to Israel claiming the Israeli deaths were an error.

 These concerns led the ISI to raid a Defence Housing Authority house in Karachi where IM cadres were being housed and took away communications equipment and weaponry in June.

 The other IM faction, led by Mirza Shadab Beig, and comprising seven jihadi, three from Azamgarh and four based in Karachi, has taken umbrage at having to follow the ISI’s agenda.

 

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