India Intelligence Report

 

 

   FBI Warning Raises Terror Fear

  A US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alert to India of a possible attack on airport or vital installation by al-Qaeda bolstered by an anonymous untraced letter in Tiruchinapalli increased security levels across airports, tarmac, and leaders.
 

 

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A US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alert to India of a possible attack on airport or vital installation by al-Qaeda bolstered by an anonymous untraced letter in Tiruchinapalli increased security levels across airports, tarmac, and leaders. While the FBI asked for a detailed profiling of passengers traveling to the US , the Tiruchanapalli letter referred to “Al-Qaeda terrorists” having “infiltrated Chennai airport” committed to “blow it up using sophisticated explosive devices.” Written in Tamil, the letter warned about “Suicide-bombers” having “penetrated Chennai airport” and “placed powerful bombs” and said that the target included airports in Coimbatore, Madurai, Kochi, Kozhikode, and Thiruvanathapuram.

Talking these threats seriously, the Civil Aviation Ministry met with Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, Home Ministry, and Central Industrial Security Force officials to step up security and institute security measures around the nation. The Ministry has also asked all State Governments to enhance security around airports and especially in the South.

Adding to this, security agencies in Jammu & Kashmir intercepted wireless messages from the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) suggesting an abduction plot of senior officials or their families. Responding to this threat, Home Minister ordered increased security for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Congress President Sonia Gandhi and their families. With Assembly elections coming up in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttaranchal, and Punjab , the initiation of sleeper cells of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and JeM is a distinct possibility. UP is especially worrisome as there is a well-established political-criminal element link and the State Government is openly hostile to Gandhi and her family skirmishing for votes. The Gandhi family contests from Rae Berelli and Amethi, both notorious for its poverty and under-development. In recent election campaign speeches, the kin of Gandhi had placed all the blame on Chief Minister Maulayam Singh Yadav, an “ally” of the Congress Federal Government.

The FBI warning was triggered by an untraceable email originating in India that warned of a hijacking of a US bound jet. Given the untraceable quality of the blind email, the FBI concluded that the individual who sent it was “highly-trained.” However, though the FBI email and the letter in Thiruchinapalli were received within hours of each other, it is not clear if they were related. Moreover, it is also not clear why individuals who would go so far to alert the two nations of terrorist attacks. And, how is it that Pakistan , which notified the British authorities on assemble bomb attacks across the Atlantic , has not commented or raise the alarm. Were the individuals testing global response levels? Was it a Government mole who tipped off the security agencies? Was it a disgruntled or disaffected faction who alerted the nations?

Chennai airport itself was in absolute chaos as investigators seemed convinced of it being the target. Political pandering by Chief Minister M.K. Karunanidhi to the Muslim population of the state, absolute disregard to security measures to check the flow of arms and ammunitions to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and a lackadaisical approach to intelligence and security may be causes. While the LTTE itself will not repeat the accidental bomb explosion in the old airport meant for the Colombo airport and risk losing all goodwill from India , the chances of arms and ammunitions pilfered by smugglers to al-Qaeda elements cannot be ruled out.

Meanwhile, as the Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan arrived in New Delhi to resume talks stalled after the Mumbai attack and India is expected to press him on the joint mechanism agreed by the leaders of both nations in Cuba . Despite overwhelming evidence, Pakistan continues to reject the notion that terrorism against India , or rest of the world, originates within its borders. Specifically, it refuses to accept responsibility for the Mumbai blasts. Coincidentally, the Director of UK’s premier counter-terrorism agency, the MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller dryly remarked that the last 30 serious terrorist plots in the UK “often have links back to al-Qaeda in Pakistan” with her agency maintaining surveillance on 1600 individuals linked to 200 terror groups.

Even though there is considerable confusion on how “clinching,” “solid,” or “credible” the evidence about the Mumbai blasts are, there is enough that leads back to Pakistan . Although the Indian Government will not be able to give out information before being filed in a court, it can share the leads with Pakistan . Further, sharing the whole information may also require blowing the cover of Indian agents and spies in Pakistan which the security agencies may not want to allow. The question is what should or could be expected out of this exchange.

At the very least, India should demand that Pakistan collect information on those cited by the Mumbai police as suspects including their whereabouts, activities, affiliations, family members, associations, etc. Secondly, India should demand that Pakistan pick up these individuals and interrogate them in the presence of an Indian investigator (even a passive one) and ask those suspects to supply alibis. Thirdly, India should supply a list of questions that Pakistani investigators can investigate and provide answers for such as sources of fake currency, documents, and identification production units. Fourthly, India should demand that Pakistan agree to an international trial process in a third country where the arguments can be presented, suspects can be interrogated by Indian officials, and sentencing can be handled by an independent judiciary.

India may have answers to the first three but can test Pakistani sincerity by looking at the answers to those questions. While there will be sufficient opposition in India to try these criminals outside and in Pakistan for surrendering their citizens to India , an independent mechanism is what may work between estranged cousins deeply distrusting each other