The 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack heralded a new phase of jihadism in India, and since then the country has been on high alert. Next month, they will host the Commonwealth games and already the United States, Britain and Australia have issued travel warning for citizens, claiming a high risk of terrorist attacks during the Games.
The threat to the Games should come as little surprise: in February of this year, ICSR’s Shiraz Maher wrote about a bombing outside a German bakery in the Indian city of Pune which killed 8 people. At the scene of the attack a note was left saying:
We warned the international community to play their role in getting the Kashmiris their right of self-determination and preventing India from committing brutalities in Kashmir, especially in Badipuar, raping the women and behaving inhumanly with Muslim prisoners.
We warn the international community not to send their people to the 2010 Hockey World Cup, IPL [Indian Premier League – an international cricket competition] and Commonwealth Games. Nor should their people visit India – if they do, they will be responsible for the consequences. [emphasis added]
We, the mujahideen of 313 Brigade, vow to continue attacks all across India until the Indian Army leaves Kashmir and gives the Kashmiris their right of self-determination. We assure the Muslims of the subcontinent that we will never forget the massacre of the Muslims in Gujarat and the demolition of Babri Mosque [destroyed by Hindu militants in 1992]. The entire Muslim community is one body and we will take revenge for all injustices and tyranny. We again warn the Indian government to compensate for all its injustices, otherwise they will see our next action.
Brigade 313 is a coalition of five of Pakistan’s main jihadist terrorist groups: Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Muhammad, Harkatul Jihad al-Islami, Harkatul Mujahideen al-Alami and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. These groups were originally set up in order to resist the Indian Army in Kashmir, but recent events suggest that some of them, in particular LeT, have ambitions that extend far beyond the region.
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As early as 2005, Husain Haqqani described how in recent years, LeT “has adopted a maximalist agenda for global jihad though its operations so far have been limited to Kashmir.” He refers to a short LeT pamphlet entitled Hum Jihad kyun Kar rahe hain? (Why are we waging jihad?), in which the group sets out aims that go far beyond Kashmir. LeT’s eight reasons are listed as:
1. To eliminate evil and facilitate conversion to and practice of Islam
2. To ensure the ascendancy of Islam
3. To force non-Muslims to pay jizya
4. To assist the weak and powerless
5. To avenge the blood of Muslims killed by unbelievers
6. To punish enemies for breaking promises and treaties
7. To defend a Muslim state
8. To liberate Muslim territories under non-Muslim occupation
Like al-Qaeda, LeT’s message affords much importance to the Muslim recovery of Andalusia:
Muslims ruled Andalusia for almost 800 years…Christians now rule and we must wrest it back from them.
The pamphlet also clarifies that LeT’s desire to liberate former Muslim territories extends far beyond Kashmir:
All of India, including Kashmir, Hyderabad, Assam, Nepal, Burma, Bihar and Junagadh were part of the Muslim empire that was lost because Muslims gave up jihad. Palestine is occupied by the Jews. The Holy Qibla-e-Awwal (First Center of Prayer) in Jerusalem is under Jewish control. Several countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Cyprus, Sicily, Ethiopia, Russian Turkistan and Chinese Turkistan … were Muslim lands and it is our duty to get these back from unbelievers. Even parts of France reaching 90 kilometers outside Paris and some of the forests and mountains of Switzerland were home to Muslim mujahidin but are now under the occupation of unbelievers.
According to Indian National Security Advisor MK Narayanan “the Lashkar today has emerged as a very major force. It has connectivity with West Asia[and] Europe…. It is as big as and omnipotent as al-Qaeda in every sense of the term.” He also described LeT as the “most visible manifestation” of al-Qaeda in India.
Since the attacks, investigators have uncovered crucial evidence that suggests LeT has further adapted its ideology to match the international scope of al-Qaeda, and could prove to become a bigger threat. After seizing the computer of LeT’s communication officer, Zarar Shah, a list of over three hundred worldwide targets was recovered, only twenty of which were in India. One of the first signs of a shift in focus by LeT was the reported training that they provided both for AQ and Taliban recruits to fight against NATO forces in Afghanistan. The Afghan ambassador to the US, Said Jawad, claimed after Mumbai that “we are seeing the Pakistanisation of al-Qaeda…Pakistanis are moving higher up in al Qaeda, and more Pakistanis are getting recruited to carry out operations.” LeT have also been reported to have trained al-Qaeda inspired operatives who were planning attacks in the United States, Europe and Australia including:
- Omar Khyam, the leader of the ‘fertilizer bomb-plot’ to set off explosives in a number of UK targets including the Ministry of Sound nightclub in central London and the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, UK, was trained by LeT in northern Pakistan.
- Dhiren Bharot, leader of a UK based cell which was planning attacks both in London and New York, trained and fought with LeT before linking up with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
- Willie Brigitte, a French national who was convicted of planning to detonate explosives in Australia’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor and Sydney’s electric grid, trained at an LeT camp in 2001 and admitted to co-ordinating the movement of LeT operatives in France.
LeT training camps run a strict religious indoctrination program which all recruits must first attend before they receive paramilitary instruction. The course, known as Dura Am, schools the recruits in the Ahl-e-Hadith sect of Islam which has its roots in Saudi Arabian Wahhabi-Salafi doctrine. This sect rejects any jurisprudential and scholarly interpretations of Islam, identifying the Koran and Hadith as the only acceptable texts by which to live their lives. C. Christine Fairdescribed the Ahl-e-Hadith as “the South Asian variant of the theological tradition motivating core al-Qaeda ideologues.”
Considering recent jihadist activity in India, the warnings issued by the American, Australian and British governments should be taken very seriously indeed.