Saudi Arabia emerges as safe destination for terror outfits against India

published on October 15, 2012

Home-grown terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM) has found a new address overseas to launch its deadly operations in India. Intelligence agencies have discovered that IM has set up base in West Asia in the last few years, with Saudi Arabia emerging as their preferred destination.

Counter-terror experts feel it is Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) that is arranging safe havens for the terror operatives in West Asian countries.

Facing increased international scrutiny, Pakistan is now finding it hard to harbour terror masterminds like it used to do earlier. So, its spy agency is helping them relocate to countries like Saudi Arabia. That allows Pakistan to claim non-culpability even as it continues to control and facilitate their operations.

“Shifting them (the terror operatives) to Saudi Arabia helps the ISI maintain deniability. They carry Pakistani passports so they can easily visit Pakistan for training whenever required,” former IB chief Ajit Doval said. Being based abroad, however, doesn’t hamper the activities of the IM operatives. The terror masterminds sitting in Saudi Arabia control their foot soldiers in India through the cyberspace, where the intelligence agencies are finding it tough to keep a track on them. “It’s a big headache for the intelligence agencies to detect the communications between them. It is impossible to monitor all the activities in the cyberspace,” a senior Intelligence Bureau (IB) official said.

The task is made difficult not only by the vast domain of internet and the anonymity that it provides. Counter-terror experts say lack of requisite expertise in cyber security is also a concern.

Commodore (retd) C. Uday Bhaskar, former director of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), said monitoring of cyberspace was a weak area for Indian security agencies. “Cyberspace is a challenge and we need the technology and cyber experts. At present, there are far too many gaps as far as the technology aspect of intelligence gathering is concerned,” he said.

New base camp

The Saudi link and the activities on social media are phenomena that have surfaced following the recent arrest of IM terrorists. The three suspected IM men, arrested on Thursday by the Delhi Police for their alleged involvement in the August 1 Pune serial blasts, had also travelled to Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions and remained in touch with their handlers online.

“They exchanged e-mails and were in touch with them through social media platforms,” the IB official said. The trio – Asad Khan, Imran Khan and Sayed Feroze – met Fayaz Qagzi, a close associate of Abu Jundal, there. Sources say Qagzi introduced them to top IM operatives Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, who instructed them to carry out terror strikes in India.

The Bhatkal brothers have been operating from Saudi Arabia for some time now, after shifting base there from Pakistan.

Jundal, a Lashkar-eTayyeba operative who played an active role in plotting the 26/11 attack, moved to Saudi Arabia from Pakistan in 2010, looking for potential recruits. He was given the responsibility to recruit youths and take care of the India operations.

He was deported to India in June and handed over to the Delhi Police. But intelligence sources said many others were still in Saudi, which was established during Jundal’s interrogation. “One of the suspects is Mohammed Fasih whose deportation is stuck due to diplomatic hurdles. There are others who have been identified but for some reason, we are unable to pursue their cases,” an intelligence official said. Jundal’s interrogation revealed that he was given the responsibility of “talent-spotting” in Saudi Arabia.

New operators

“He was active on the internet, attempting to recruit cadres from India for LeT using several platforms such as Islamic chat and multiple Facebook profiles etc.,” his interrogation report stated. As reported by Mail Today earlier, recent intelligence inputs have also revealed that the IM has links with Hizbut Tahrir, a Palestinian radical outfit founded in 1953, which is engaged in attempts to radicalise disgruntled youths in India. IB sources said in the past two years, some credible evidence has emerged on the group trying to establish its foothold in India.

The IM’s funding is also being done from Europe and West Asia, a region where Hizbut Tahrir has a strong presence.

“Unlike in the past, radicilisation is being done on social media and chat forums. The youth are being indoctrinated in the cyberspace and a lot of instigating literature is being floated on these forums,” said an intelligence official.

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