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TERROR TAMED

HOURS AFTER three men posing as police officers were shot dead 100 metres from the RSS headquarters in Nagpur on Thursday, a group of Maharashtra's anti-terror investigators headed north from Mumbai. Their main task: to find out if the three were linked to terror cells busted this year across the state -- and study their motivation.

india Updated: Jun 02, 2006 01:44 IST

But was it also fired by Gujarat?

HOURS AFTER three men posing as police officers were shot dead 100 metres from the RSS headquarters in Nagpur on Thursday, a group of Maharashtra's anti-terror investigators headed north from Mumbai. Their main task: to find out if the three were linked to terror cells busted this year across the state -- and study their motivation.

The three were killed in an encounter around 4 a.m. after a police patrol party intercepted their car near the Hedgewar Bhavan. The police stopped the car after it broke a barricade on the lane leading to the RSS headquarters. The police claimed recovery of automatic rifles and explosives from them.

With investigations pending, Nagpur Police Commissioner S.P.S Yadav simply called the slain men "Islamic militants". But he told HT he did not discount what has repeatedly been revealed during the unravelling of terror cells across India as continuing motivation: the anti-Muslim Gujarat riots of 2002.

In Delhi, senior security officials said the manner in which the three planned to execute their attack -- by driving up in a white Ambassador fitted with a red beacon atop -- seemed amateurish and pointed to a trend of copycat attacks noticed from 2003.

Since then and especially this year, diverse Islamic outfits -- from little-known groups in Hyderabad to the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba in Kashmir -- continue to use Gujarat's communal pogrom to motivate and create new terror cells (with educated youth as the brains and semi-literate ones as bombers), said officials interviewed across India.

Ten days ago, Akif Biyabani, a 23-year-old B.Com student, one of the 11 arrested from Aurangabad(their affiliations unclear) for smuggling in weapons, told interrogators in Mumbai: "Gujarat CM Narendra Modi is our target number one."

That hate, said intelligence experts, is fuelled by actions like Modi's announcement on Thursday of a Rs 10-lakh reward — quickly matched by the Congress-run Maharashtra — to the police unit that shot dead the alleged terrorists in Nagpur. "This is an attack on our nation's culture and challenges our patriotism," Modi, known for his roots in the RSS, said in Ahmedabad. Bangalore Police Commissioner Ajai Kumar Singh Akhilesh said: "Several Muslim organisations are propagating anti-Modi campaigns across the country."

In Karnataka, plots to attack the Almatti Dam, a power grid and the Kaiga Nuclear Plant were busted and 13 arrested in the past six months. Late last year, terrorists had struck at the IISC in Bangalore, killing a professor from IIT Delhi.

"The terrorists, particularly the ones from Hyderabad, Maharashtra and Gujarat, have during interrogations pointed out how the Gujarat riots led them to believe that there was an anti-Muslim atmosphere in India," said Delhi's DCP (special cell) Ajay Kumar. An intelligence official in Delhi said Gujarat under Modi is now closely watched by agencies in Pakistan and Bangladesh. "Every development impacting minorities is watched there and used to incite disgruntled members in the community… everything, even the decision not to screen the Aamir Khan-starrer, Fanaa," he said.

In UP, the demolition of the Babri Masjid is a fading motivation but Gujarat remains ‘a tonic’, as an IB officer put it. Last year's attack at Ayodhya and the Varanasi blasts this year were proof of it.

First Published: Jun 02, 2006 01:44 IST