Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mumbai blast mastermind believed to be hiding in Bangladesh

SALEEM SAMAD

INDIAN SECURITY agencies believe that the mastermind of last week's serial bombings in Mumbai is hiding in Bangladesh.

Mumbai police say they suspect the bombs to be the work of the Indian Mujahideen (IM). The serial bomb blasts last week killed at least 19 people and injured more than 130.

The suspect, Abdullah Khan, of the Indian Mujahideen is alleged to have orchestrated the Mumbai blasts and is now hiding somewhere in Bangladesh. His movements had been tracked over the past few months, the daily Times of India quotes the National Investigation Agency, India's top unit to combat terror, as saying.

Khan is now "operating the IM module which is assigned to maintain liaison with the Bangladesh based Harkat-ul Jihad Al Islam (HuJI) and, in a joint venture, has recruited a few new jihadist for their outfit," according to the Times of India report.

Investigators said about six months ago, Khan was stationed in Nepal and shuttled between Bangladesh and Pakistan. The IM had started conducting training camps in Bangladesh, the newspaper mentioned.

The report also mentioned that the National Investigation Agency was homing in on IM members across India and was already questioning suspected operatives.

IM terrorists find it easier to penetrate through the porous India-Bangladesh border with support from the HuJI, the source said in the report.

In the first week of November last year, Bangladesh detectives foiled a plot to attack the U.S. Embassy and

Indian High Commission in Bangladesh. Several terrorist sleeping cells were smashed simultaneously in India and Bangladesh with intelligence tips from the CIA.

In a bid to combat such cross-border terrorism, organized crime and the drug trade, during Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India in January 2010 the countries decided to form a coordination committee comprising representatives of law enforcement agencies and the two countries' intelligence wings to "deal with international terrorism and drug smuggling, investigation and completion of trial in such crimes."

India and Bangladesh are highly likely to sign an agreement during a planned visit to Bangladesh by Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in September. Security analysts predict the pact will significantly reduce terrorism in the region. However, the analysts said it will be difficult to drag troubled Pakistan into a regional cooperation agreement to combat terrorism, so it will be an incomplete effort.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com