Evil state in Bharat: Samshayatma vinashyathi (Ditherers perish)! Root out terror, else get rooted out.
Why terrorists attack soft targets
B Raman | May 14, 2008 | 12:27 IST
Soft targets are those that are not subject to special protection, that are frequented by the public, which could be local nationals or foreigners. Attacks on such targets cause many human fatalities and demonstrate the capability of terrorist groups to operate without being detected by the intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies.
Destruction of or damage to economic or other capabilities is not the primary aim of such attacks. The primary aim is to kill human beings, though destruction or damage of capabilities may also result from such attacks.
For such attacks on soft targets, a long period of preparations such as keeping surveillance on the target etc is not required. All that is required is the creation or infiltration of a sleeper cell to undertake such attacks and reaching to the cell, the weapons or explosive devices to be used.
A sleeper cell is a small group of operatives specifically raised to undertake a terrorist strike. The cell generally consists of persons, who will actually undertake the strike with the help of hand-held weapons or IEDs, and some others, who will provide the logistics such as smuggling in the weapons or explosives, storing them safely till the time for the strike comes, providing a hide-out for those who will actually undertake the strike if they come from outside the area and facilitating their get-away after they have carried out the strike.
Those, who carry out the strike, are generally specially trained in the handling of weapons and in the assembly of IEDs. Those, who help in the logistics, need not be specially trained, but they should support the ideology and objectives of the terrorist organisation, which undertakes the terrorist strike, and should enjoy its confidence.
Those who carry out the strikes are generally from outside the area where a target is chosen for attack. A resident of the area may develop qualms of conscience about killing people whom he has known and with whom he has grown up. Moreover, his absence from the area after the terrorist strike makes the identification of the perpetrators by the police easier.
An outsider is unlikely to have such qualms of conscience and his get-away may not attract attention. Those providing the logistics back-up could be from the same area or from outside.
Thus, a sleeper cell could consist completely of outsiders infiltrated into the area of intended operation or could be a mix of outsiders and residents of the area. These are called sleeper cells because its members are specially trained or have a natural aptitude for maintaining a low profile and are able to lead a normal life as students or in some occupation without attracting attention to themselves.
In the case of the Mumbai blasts of March 1993, the perpetrators were easily identified by the police because many of them except Dawood Ibrahim were normal residents of Mumbai and not from outside. Their get-away from Mumbai after the explosions attracted police suspicion.
A new modus operandi for attacks on soft targets noticed in recent years is the use of unconscious bombers by the sleeper cells so that the explosions cannot be easily traced back by the police to the real perpetrators.
The United Liberation Front of Asom in Assam has been periodically using this modus operandi by paying unsuspecting individuals for leaving bicycles fitted with IEDs in markets and other crowded areas. Al Qaeda was reported to have used this modus operandi in Casablanca in May 2003, and in Baghdad on February 1, 2008.
In Casablanca, an unsuspecting individual was asked to carry a package containing a remote-controlled IED to a third person. As the carrier was walking in front of a restaurant the IED was activated through remote control. In Baghdad, two mentally disturbed women, who used to beg in the market places, were fitted with IEDs and these were exploded through remote control as they were begging in the markets. The Chechens had also used this modus operandi.
There are various reasons for which terrorists periodically attack soft targets in widely dispersed areas. Firstly, they want to demonstrate their reach. They want to show that they can operate in any part of the country in the case of indigenous organisations and in any part of the world in the case of the pan-Islamic jihadi organisations.
Outside Jammu and Kashmir, the pan-Islamic jihadi organisations have struck on soft targets in places like Mumbai, Delhi, Varanasi, Lucknow, Faizabad, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Coimbatore. Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations have struck in places like Bali (twice), Jakarta, Mombasa, Casablanca, Istanbul, Madrid, London and Sharm-el-Sheikh.
Secondly, they want to discredit the intelligence agencies, the police and other security agencies in the eyes of the people by demonstrating their capability to strike despite the vigilance of these agencies. In their calculation, this could result in a gradual loss of faith of the people in the efficacy of these agencies.
Thirdly, they want to make the police and the security agencies over-react in response to their successful strikes. Such over-reactions often come in the form of large-scale arrests of the members of the community from which the terrorists have arisen and the alleged use of harsh methods to interrogate them. This creates animosity towards the police and the government in the victim-community and adds to their sense of alienation.
Such over-reactions could also create a divide between different communities, thereby resulting in the flow of more recruits to the ranks of the terrorists. Anger resulting from over-reactions facilitates their recruitment.
Fourthly, attacks on soft targets are also undertaken in reprisal for perceived wrongs allegedly committed by the government or the police towards the members of the community from which the terrorists have arisen or even towards the terrorists themselves. If they are not able to retaliate against hard (well-protected) targets, they retaliate against soft targets.
The LTTE in Sri Lanka often resorts to such attacks on soft targets in retaliation for the government's strikes against it. Such retaliatory attacks are meant to intimidate the security forces into going slow in their counter-terrorism operations. Reprisal attacks on soft targets may also be directed against foreign nationals, though local nationals may also die during the strikes.
The two explosions in Bali in October 2002, and October 2005, by the Jemmah Islamiyah were directed mainly against Australian tourists in reprisal for Australia's cooperation with the US in the so-called war against terrorism. Many Indonesian nationals also died during the strikes, but the possibility of such deaths of local nationals did not deter the terrorists from exploding IEDs in places crowded by Australian tourists.
During the subsequent trial of the perpetrators, they apologised in public for the deaths of fellow citizens and fellow Muslims, but did not regret their action in carrying out the strikes. Similarly, Al Qaeda's attack on a hotel in Mombasa in November 2002, and in the Egyptian tourist resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh in July 2005, targeted Israeli tourists in reprisal for Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, but many local citizens also died.
The three explosions outside courts in Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh on November 23, 2007, were also reprisal strikes against soft targets to protest against the perceived harsh sentences awarded to some of the accused in the Mumbai blasts of March 1993, by a Mumbai court and against the alleged failure of the government of Mumbai to act against certain police officers, who were blamed by an enquiry commission for allegedly committing excesses against Muslims during the communal riots that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992.
An anonymous e-mail received by some television channels on the day of the explosions alleged that the criminal justice system in India was unfair towards the Muslims. While these are essentially tactical strikes, certain kinds of strikes against soft targets have a strategic purpose.
Strikes in certain places of economic importance like stock exchanges, crowded market places, offices of business companies and tourist resorts have the objective of disrupting the economy and discouraging the flow of foreign investments by creating a feeling of nervousness about security conditions in the minds of potential investors.
The Mumbai blasts of March 1993, and the Delhi blasts of October 2005, would fall in this category. Strikes in places of religious significance -- whether holy cities or places of worship -- are meant to create a communal divide in the long-term interests of the terrorist organisation.
The blasts in Varanasi in March 2006, in Malegaon in Maharashtra on September 8, 2006, in Hyderabad on May 18, 2007, and in Ajmer Sharif on October 11, 2007, would fall in this category.
Soft targets do not have the benefit of protection of physical security measures by the government, though some of them such as places of worship, business establishments etc may have their own physical security measures.
There are hundreds of thousands of potential soft targets of terrorists all over the country. It would be just impossible for the government to provide them with physical security. One cannot totally eliminate attacks on soft targets, but one can reduce them by effective intelligence capability and policing in order to detect and neutralise sleeper cells before they go into action, educating the public in matters such as looking out for suspicious-looking persons and objects, close police-community relations and close liaison between the police and those in charge of security in those cases where soft targets have their own security arrangements.
While there have been successful instances of sleeper cells being detected and neutralised in time by the intelligence agencies and the police acting in tandem, there are many other cases where the sleeper cells managed to evade detection and carry out the strike.
Every successful terrorist strike on a soft target is due to the failure of the agencies and the police to detect the sleeper cell responsible. The agencies and the police do face difficulties due to the fact that the terrorists operate in a vast area and keep moving from state to state in order to attack.
They operate like the old so-called criminal tribes, who used to keep attacking in different places in different times in order to make it difficult for the police to detect them. The only way of effectively countering this is through effective co-ordination of the police in all the states, the creation of a national database to which the police of different states can have direct access and the quick sharing of the results of the enquiries and investigations through this data base.
The creation of a Federal Counter-Terrorism Agency patterned after the FBI of the US, with powers to investigate all terrorism-related cases occurring in any part of the country, would facilitate action and prevention, but there continues to be strong resistance from the states to proposals for the creation of such an agency.
The ease with which the terrorists have been operating in different parts of the country is also due to deterioration in the quality of policing in the urban as well as rural areas. Normal tasks, which the police are expected to perform such as making enquiries about suspicious-looking persons in hotels, inns, railway stations and airports; making a random background check of arrivals from outside etc, no longer receive the required attention.
Similarly, intense police-community relations, which encourage the people to share with the police information, which could have a bearing on terrorism, are increasingly neglected. The public will come forward to share information only with a police officer whom they know and in whose discretion they have confidence.
Close interactions between the police and the security officers of private establishments is more an exception than the rule. Sometimes, I am invited to address gatherings of such security officers in different urban areas. Almost all of them complained of a lack of accessibility to senior police officers and the reluctance of the police to keep them briefed on developments having a bearing on terrorism.
They complained that it was rarely that police officers took the initiative in briefing them when the media carried sensational stories about the plans of the terrorists. When they asked for a briefing, they were asked to meet junior officers, who often were not in a position to brief them adequately and did not have the required self-confidence to be able to answer their questions.
It is important that senior police officers interact with the security officers of important private establishments -- particularly those from abroad -- at least once or twice a year as a matter of routine and also on other occasions, when there is a need for it. Senior police officers cannot be expected to interact with the private security officers of all establishments -- big or small, important or unimportant.
However, such interactions should take place with the private security officers of large establishments, which play an important role in our economy. Perceptions of police indifference towards them could have a negative impact on the investors' confidence in the security environment in the country and in their particular areas of operation.
The above is an extract from B Raman's forthcoming book Terrorism: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow being published by Lancer Publishers later this month.
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Fight the war on New Terrorism to the finish
B S Raghavan | May 14, 2008 | 14:33 IST
Has anyone thought why there has not been a single instance of terror in the United States of America post-9/11 unlike India where such attacks occur almost every day? The difference lies in the desire to study the problem scientifically and take remedial measures.... We do not have the political will to fight terrorism....When new challenges come, new solutions also have to be found. Terrorism is a gift of the last century� Terrorist acts require an altogether new type of investigation. It requires new laws and new methodologies. A study should be conducted to identify the causes and suggest remedies. But there is no serious study in our country' -- Former Chief Justice of India R C Lahoti.
How many more terrorist attacks should occur, and how many more lives should be lost, before the powers-that-be in India awake to the fact that practically every human being that lives, every building that stands, every vehicle that moves and every activity that goes on in the country is within the cross hairs of the terrorists who kill for attaining martyrdom?
The rabid motivation for murdering anyone within sight has ceased to have anything to do with policies pursued by this or that country; it is simply rooted in inhuman hatred, all-consuming ill-will and raging fanaticism. The Jaipur blasts, like all the previous ones, form part of a carefully masterminded operation that has managed to hoodwink the elaborate intelligence structure and police machinery; such meticulous planning which must have gone on for weeks, if not months, could not have been undertaken without local hospitality, support and collusion.
In the face of the terrible prospect confronting the country, anyone who underplays the mortal danger from the remorselessly and relentlessly advancing tide of jihadi terrorism has no mind to think and no eyes to see. Any party which plays vote bank politics at this critical hour mortgages the nation's stability and security to the jihadis. Any government that displays smugness, complacency, callousness, slackness, softness, weakness and indifference oblivious to the depredations caused by their outrage is itself guilty of inciting and assisting them in executing their murderous designs with still more ruthlessness.
Muslims living in India and loving India have a duty to their motherland: They should not assume the role of silent onlookers but should bring the evil elements in their midst out into the open so that they can be visited with condign punishment.
Equally, there is need for a change in the mindset of the country's elite and intelligentsia as well. They should realise that their habit of trivialising and communalising issues at the heart of a nation, denigrating the 83 per cent of Hindus, rubbishing their institutions, values, customs and traditions, and demonising those who speak up for them, while placating and pandering to minorityist self-seekers under the guise of secularism and human rights, gives indirect encouragement to jihadis.
It is their type which springs to the instant defence of Muslims when they take to violence over the Danish cartoons and to the instant attack of Hindus for criticising M F Husain's depiction of Hindu goddesses in the nude. It is their type that exhibits outrageous solicitude to Abdul Nasser Madhani's health.
For a moment let them ask themselves whether they will be tolerated, nay, whether their lives will be secure if, assuming themselves to be Muslims, they conduct themselves in Indonesia, Iran or Saudi Arabia in the above manner as the doughty champions of non-Muslims, or keep depicting members of their own faith (Islam) as vicious monsters.
B Raman: Why terrorists attack soft targets
The situation calls for firm handling. There should be no vacillation, hesitation or prevarication in bundling out lock, stock and barrel all the illegal immigrants who not only rob the genuine citizens of the due fruits of economic development but also pose grave danger to the country.
Their numbers have swollen to huge proportions thanks to unchecked infiltration and political connivance precisely in those areas of the country which are breeding grounds of anti-national elements. They deserve no consideration on the grounds of natural justice or human rights. The only place for them to go is back to where they came from, and all steps must be taken to that end and executed within a specified time-frame.
Next, analogous to the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Intelligence Bureau, a new Central Counter-Terrorism Bureau should be established, vesting it with the entire range of duties and responsibilities to extirpate terrorism, and with power and authority to override State jurisdiction in its best judgement.
In order to make it strong and effective, its functioning should be made totally independent of, and fully immune from, political meddling, manipulation and machinations, except for the government's right to institute inquiries into any abuse or misuse of authority.
Finally, the government owes it to their sovereign masters, the people, and to itself, to put on the statute book a special law for curbing terrorism, providing for summary trial akin to military tribunals, and detention without bail until the trials are completed. There should be only one chance to appeal and that too only on substantive points of law, and on conviction, the perpetrators should be given deterrent punishment of death or life-long incarceration. It is totally unacceptable that the trial of accused in the devastating serial Mumbai blasts of 1993 dragged on 15 years after the event.
Any further shying away from its paramount duty would expose the government to the charge of dereliction and betrayal of the safety and security of the nation. The no-holds-barred measures against terrorists adopted by the world's two tested and long-standing democracies, the United Kingdom and the US, must be equally good, if not even better, for the world's most vulnerable and fragile one.
Terror strikes Delhi
The emerging scenario, in fact, calls for a law stronger than the Prevention of Terrorism Act which was misguidedly repealed in order to retain the vote-banks. The taunt that the existence of POTA did not stop terrorist acts is easily answered: No law is proof against commission of any offence. The existence of the Indian Penal Code has not prevented commission of murder, rape and the like; the Prevention of Corruption Act has not banished corruption.
It is also disingenuous to claim, as those seeking to soft-pedal action against Islamist terrorists do, that the existing laws are adequate. For 10 years, between 1961 and 1970 in the central home ministry, and later as chief secretary, I have had occasion to appraise them.
Take my word for it: They are not adequate. A more rigorous law strengthening the hands of the investigative agencies providing for quick and deterrent punishment will certainly help prevent terrorism from assuming more deadly proportions.
As regards the possibility of its misuse, civil society should be trusted to exercise constant vigilance so that instances of harassment of any particular community are taken up for inquiry and appropriate remedial action without delay.
The value of such a law, taken together with manifest firmness of the central and state governments in the other respects already mentioned, is that it will enhance the trust and faith of the people at large in the government. Indeed, in view of the distrust, hostility and resentment engendered by the impotence in the face of jihadi terrorism, Israel's example of swift and stern retribution is already finding many appreciative takers. (Israel is a democracy, may it be noted!) The absence of determined action against terrorism is bound to lead to violent upheavals.
To conclude: The war on what may be called New Terrorism has to be fought to the finish, with neither qualm nor compunction, neither apologies nor regrets. For, it is capable of growing new arms, new heads and new bodies, and wreaking havoc, elusive and unseen, unless it is stamped out without any trace whatsoever.
For far too long, the vote-banks crippled the government from being single-minded and firm in crushing the venomous forces striking at the root of the nation. If it does not shake itself out of its stupor, and deploy and use all the resources under its command now, those forces inimical to the nation will see to it that it does not get a second chance. In the war on new terrorism, there is no mercy for ditherers.
Hearken to the ancient saying of India's sages: Samshayatma vinashyathi (Ditherers perish)!
B S Raghavan is a retired IAS officer who was a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Director of Political and Security Policy Planning in the home ministry, and chief secretary of a state.
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