Monday, October 31, 2005

No Surprise in Weekend Slaughter

It increasingly appears – to absolutely no one’s surprise – that the weekend terror attacks in India were the work of Islamists. The multiple attacks, including a bus bombing (Islamists really seem to love blowing up buses), killed 62 Indians at last count, and injured scores more. The BBC reports that Islami Inqilabi Mahaz, a little know Kashmiri Islamist separatist group, has claimed responsibility. In a phone conversation between the Indian Prime Minister and General Perez Musharraf, the Pakistani leader, the Indians took Pakistan to task for failing to deal with Islamist militants within their country.

According to an Indian Foreign Ministry statement, [Indian Prime Minister Manmohan] Singh told Gen Musharraf said he "continued to be disturbed and dismayed at indications of external linkages of terrorist groups with the 29 October bombing".

Naturally, Pakistan denies that any Pakistanis are involved, calling Islami Inqilabi Mahaz’s statement "a mere claim." No matter that Pakistani Islamists have been linked to numerous terror attacks in India and that the world’s number one terrorist-at-large, Osama bin Laden, is believed to be hiding somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Like most Islamic nations, Pakistan will deny that its citizen ever did anything wrong as long as possible, and when confronted with evidence, will insist on a conspiracy of global proportion against it.

Whether Islami Inqilabi Mahaz (which means Islamic Revolutionary Group) actually carried out the attacks is that an open question.

… Kashmir analysts say they have never heard of the group.

Delhi Police chief, KK Paul, told the BBC that they had some knowledge of the group.

"We had come to know about the group some five or six years ago.

"It is not altogether an unknown group."

But it is still unclear whether the group still exists and indeed, whether it had anything to do with the attacks.

Nevertheless, security analysts are certain that Pakistan-based Islamist groups were behind the latest atrocities.

"There are only two groups capable of carrying out these types of attacks," says security analyst Brahma Chellaney, "the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad."

Both groups are based in Pakistan, although they have been outlawed, and have been listed as terrorist groups by the US State Department.

Saturday's attack also signaled a major departure from previous attacks.

It targeted innocent civilians - middle-class Indians out shopping ahead of the festival season - instead of symbols of power, such as politicians and government buildings as has been the case in the past.

Defence analyst and former Indian army major, Maroof Raza, says the attack may be a sign of things to come.

"It is clear that the militant groups are trying to make a comeback.

"It is also clear that they have shifted their focus, since it's becoming increasingly difficult to successfully launch an attack on high-profile targets," he told the BBC News website.

Major militant groups operating in India are usually quick to own up to attacks, especially those aimed at the security forces or government.

But they rarely acknowledge attacks on civilians.

It is possible that the attacks may never be credited to those who carried them out.

Despite Saturday’s carnage, India has carefully avoided ratcheting up its rhetoric. The two countries have been moving slowly toward better relations in recent months. It is in neither Dehli’s or Islamabad’s interest to see that progress reversed. The recent earthquake centered in Kashmir has brought the two foes into cooperation over relief efforts. Islamist groups oppose any warming of relations, and the cooperative agreements that have resulted from the earthquake recovery operations likely prompted this attack – a desperate effort to inflame Indian sentiment and scuttle the slender bridge of good will Mr. Singh and General Musharraf have built between their governments. Peaceful relations between Pakistan and India may be in the best interests of the people of both countries, but would be a terrible development for Pakistani Islamist, eager to wage jihad against the Hindu infidels across the border. Islamism thrives on conflict and where conflict appears to be ebbing, Islamist will do everything possible to create more.


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