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Sanitizing terrorism

Sanitizing terrorism

Author: N.V.Subramanian
Publication: NewsInsight.net
Date: June 29, 2009
URL: http://www.newsinsight.net/archivedebates/nat2.asp?recno=1855

The story of the November 2008 Bombay terrorist attack has one puzzling aspect. Were there only ten Pakistani terrorists involved (including Ajmal Kasab) in it, or did they get local help also? The Centre and the Maharashtra government insist that the ten Pakistani terrorists were on their own and did not get any local logistical help, aside from the earlier procurement of SIM cards, etc, by Lashkar-e-Toiba contacts in India. While this indeed might be the case, it is not convincing. What the Indian government wants the world to believe is that the Pakistani terrorists were so familiar with the geography of South Bombay (where the Taj and Oberoi hotels were, the location of the Jewish centre, the ins and outs of CST, and so on) that they went machine-like spreading terror absolutely without local support. If you believe this version, it makes India into a banana republic hopelessly vulnerable to terrorism. Anybody can float in on a dinghy from anywhere, catch the first cruising cab, and casually embark on a mission of terrorism. It might well be true, but it does not seem the case, not at least in the detail. What is a more convincing alternative scenario? Scenario one is that Kasab & Co came earlier to South Bombay to recce it for the terrorist attack. They may have stayed for a couple of days or perhaps a week or more. In this time, they familiarized themselves with particular locations of future terrorist attacks (they may even have finalized the locations for their maximum impact), perhaps even stayed in one of the targeted hotels, and generally undertook every preparation to make the planned terrorist mission a success. In all this, they might have got local support or perhaps a decision was taken to exclude the Bombay LeT sleeper cells from this attack and reserve it for future use. The second scenario is as the government says the terrorist attack happened, but with one important addition. A local LeT cell closely coordinated the attack from the moment the Pakistani terrorists landed. This is the conclusion of a recent BBC investigation which says there were spotters on the ground that were relaying accurate intelligence to their Pakistani handlers about the deployment of security forces in the attack zone, which information was promptly relayed to the terrorists. The BBC investigation rejects the police theory that live TV coverage aided the terrorists. It says the TV coverage was not so all-encompassing as to assist the terrorists to the claimed extent. Which scenario is more plausible, the first or the second? The first, because the terrorists moved to their objectives with a confidence that suggested they had closely studied the area before. But this can be countered by saying the terrorists were trained in their mission with large-scale ordnance maps of South Bombay, which is quite possible. Goggle Earth can give you reasonable familiarity with a place. But it is still doubtful if a terrorist mission would be planned on the basis of large-sized maps if location visits could be arranged. But if scenario one is totally ruled out, then scenario two can only succeed with local logistical providers including spotters that the BBC investigation talks about. Ten terrorists robotically moving to their targets without local help or physical familiarity with the place is simply unbelievable. The Centre and the Maharashtra government cannot expect anybody to accept their rather sanitized version of events. There had to be local help to the terrorists, and in the interest of preventing and pre-empting future terrorist attacks, the Union home minister, P.Chidambaram, ought to come clean. What is the problem in admitting to one or several Bombay LeT cells? Nothing at all. The December 2001 Parliament attack had local links. The terrorist on death row, Afzal Guru, was not among the attackers, but was part of the attack conspiracy, operating out of a relative's home in Delhi. His conviction does not taint a community, although the delay in carrying out the Supreme Court sentence is certainly maligning it. The same is true about local involvement in the Bombay attack. It is well-known that the LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed have set up sleeper cells in several Indian cities and towns. It is part of their aim to dismember India. Admitting of these cells does not impugn the nationalism of any community. They have been freely admitted before. The same community has prevented the burial of any of the nine Bombay terrorists killed in the attack. The community is matured to want Pakistani terrorists removed from its midst once for all, and this is what the government should do, rather than hide behind lies. Nor will the exposure of local help weaken the case against the Pakistani masterminds and handlers of the Bombay terrorist attack. Nobody is in any doubt that the attack plans originated in Pakistan, and no one questions the key role played by the LeT terrorist leader, Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed. India won't have a watertight case against Hafiz Sayeed and the other Pakistani terrorist planners unless it sews up the local end. This is a terrorist investigation, not a political whitewash job. The credibility of India is at stake. N.V.Subramanian is Editor, NewsInsight.net. He has authored two novels, University of Love

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