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'Bengal is ISI hub for plotting terror attacks'

'Bengal is ISI hub for plotting terror attacks'

Author: Shri Rahul Das
Publications: The Asian Age
Dated: December 20, 2001

Kolkata, Dec. 19: Intelligence sources have said that Bengal is more than, a transit for international terrorists as the Left Front government has described it. The state has also been the plotting centre for several terrorist attacks executed across the country, intelligence sources say.

The intelligence bureau has learnt, for instance, that ISI agents in Murshidabad and North Dinajpur had planned the February 1998 blast in Coimbatore, where Union home minister L.K. Advani was to address an election meeting.

The information comes from Abul Kasem, an ISI agent who was arrested from Kalikapur village near Lalgola in Murshidabad. Kasem, also helped the IB arrest Sahidul Islam, the mastermind behind several blasts in Delhi. "Both of them had planned the operation at a village in Nadia," an officer said. A bigger breakthrough arrived this year when gangster Manoj Srivastava confessed to RAW that he was in touch with a task force planning to assassinate Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Srivastava was picked up from Dum Dum Airport on his way to Mumbai from Kathmandu. Srivastava said that the task force included, ISI agents and the killers of Bangladesh leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The task force, instigating insurgency in Bangladesh had Sheikh Hasina as its prime target and was hatching plans in Kolkata. More information came after the CBI and West Bengal police arrested ISI agents Samuel Kumar, also known as Bhujel, and Belal or Nanu Mia from Kerseong and North 24 Parganas respectively. Both were involved in the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 from Kathmandu. "Bhujel was in charge of procuring the arms and ammunition while Belal, of Basirhat, helped a hijacker enter India from Bangladesh. He later landed up in Kathmandu via Mumbai and then planned the operation. We believe Belal also supplied the explosives used for 'the New' Jalpaiguri railway station blast in 1999, an officer said. Earlier pointers to Bengal's strategic importance were noticed in 1998 when Ulfa vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi, who was arrested from a Kolkata guest house, confessed that he had hatched several attacks on security agencies from the guest house. The same year, Abu Naser was arrested while planning explosions at several places in the country including the US consulate in Kolkata. He had been trained in Pakistan and sent to India. In 1999, the police, CBI and IB arrested eight ISI agents who had been passing on defence secrets from Chandipur to a contact in. Kolkata, who was to relay it to a source in Delhi. Further arrests included ISI agents.

Operations on sites within Bengal have been limited though the Centre got information of the plot to blow up New Jalpaiguri station before it was carried out. The Centre forwarded the state an Army intelligence report saying there was an extremely high possibility of ISI-sponsored terrorist attacks in North Bengal. The state government however sat on the report.

21 people were later killed in a bomb attack at the station.

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