India’s stark warning to Western and Gulf Arab countries to brace for a new wave of terrorist attacks on economic targets is not surprising. National Security Advisor (NSA) M.K. Narayanan issued the caution while addressing a security conference in Bahrain recently. This seems to be based on new intelligence about al-Qaeda training schools along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which are “breeding a new generation of terrorists”. Since 9/11, intelligence agencies across the world have regularly issued routine cautionary bulletins, telling nations to batten down the hatches and prepare for terrorist outrages. In that sense, it is not clear if this warning is part of sanitised technical intelligence that countries usually share with each other, or is based on more specific human intelligence.
What is disturbing, however, is that it ties in with similar reports of Indian intelligence agencies suggesting recruits from more than a dozen countries are being trained at these terror ‘schools’. From all accounts, although these training camps are much smaller than the large, static pre-9/11 camps in Afghanistan, they offer the chance for recruits to become adept at handling explosives and targeting high-profile political leaders as well as economic infrastructure such as oil pipelines and storage depots, electricity pylons and ocean-going tankers. As Mr Narayanan pointed out, these groups are well-funded, well-armed and taught “asymmetric war techniques” to strike at a target’s weak spots. Considering the fact that Indian security agencies have been following these dark goings-on for a while now, the latest alert must be taken as a pointer to the likelihood of attacks.
This also confirms the worst fears of intelligence experts that, far from being routed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the subsequent crackdown on it across the world, elements of al-Qaeda are actually resurgent on many fronts. This is borne out by the recent arrests of terror suspects in Denmark and Germany, and the terrorist attacks in North Africa. In fact, the cell disrupted in Germany points to the increasing numbers of so-called ‘home-grown’ suspects who received training and direction from al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan and who are spreading to Europe and elsewhere.