Bangalore seems to have been chosen for the latest terror strike in the country for three main reasons. First, the city is a household name and a successful attack here is guaranteed to generate wide publicity. Second, never having seen a major terrorist attack before, it was an easy target with security relatively lax. Third, the environment was not altogether hostile or unfamiliar: key members of groups espousing militant Islam have been arrested in this city, and are known to have built some rudimentary network within it.
Though India’s IT industry has spread its wings in recent years, setting up key centres in many unexpected locations, Bangalore remains its core or fountainhead. All the IT giants, both Indian and global, have their biggest offices in India here, from Infosys Technologies and Wipro to Microsoft and Intel. Known as the world’s “back office”, the city has around 1,500 infotech firms, employing over 4 lakh people, and accounts for a third of India’s $41 billion software exports. Nor is its importance confined to just IT; it is also the hub of India’s aerospace, electronics and biotechnology industries. The attack on Bangalore using low-intensity bombs is guaranteed to heighten the sense of insecurity and terror across the country, while causing relatively little actual damage.
Security experts have confirmed the city seems the ideal target for militant attacks because security considerations have never been paramount, not even after the earlier attack on the Indian Institute of Science in December 2005 that saw a top scientist killed. Following Friday’s blasts, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has found several lacunae in security measures around the Electronic City, home to several IT and telecom companies.
The security ring has been strengthened but with an array of roads leading into it from neighbouring villages, the companies here continue to face the risk of attacks. “We cannot do much except to review the arrangements and send advisories to these companies from time to time. Look at IISc, where the authorities refuse to shut the gates and restrict entry despite the last attack. Scientists and technocrats hate the ideal of gun-toting security men watching their offices and laboratories,” said a top police officer.
Finally Bangalore has seen inroads made by radical Islamic tendencies. Highly-qualified men like the brothers Kafeel Ahmed and Sabeel Ahmed — a doctor and an engineer, respectively — were involved in the car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow in June 2007. Kafeel succumbed to his injuries while Sabeel spent many months in a British prison before being deported to India. Investigations into the brothers’ activities in India brought to light several little known radical organizations which had units in the city and which they had been involved with.
However, it was the arrest of three SIMI activities — Riyazuddin Nasir alias Mohammed Ghouse, a college dropout trained in Pakistan; Asadullah Abubaker, a student of ayurvedic medicine in Hubli; and Mohammed Asif, a doctor at the Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences, Hubli, in January 2008 that revealed the extent of the radical Islamic network in the city. Their arrests in turn led to the arrest of Sabahuddin on the outskirts of Lucknow in February 2008. Sabahuddin confessed that he had in fact accompanied Abu Hamza, a Jaish-e-Mohammed activist, during the attack on the IISc campus.