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Pune blast was tip of the IM's growing iceberg: agencies

By Vicky Nanjappa
Last updated on: March 05, 2010 19:23 IST
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The Pune blast on February 13 was a rude wake-up call for Indian security agencies, which had relapsed into thinking that the menace of terrorism had subsided following the Mumbai 26/11 attacks.

Almost minutes after the Pune blast, it was confirmed that the Indian terror outfit Indian Mujahiden had undertaken the operation.

However, the rise and growing power of the IM has surprised the security agencies -- the terror outfit has survived and grown despite the recent stringent crackdowns in the last one-and-half years.

A team of Intelligence Bureau sleuths, who worked in tandem with their state counterparts, gathered information about the modules of the IM in various states.

Intelligence agencies have noticed a strange pattern in the IM operations: Even as the security agencies targeted the network of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba post-26/11 attacks, the IM got into an alliance with the Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islami to expand its network.

Many cadres of the HuJI are not only working in tandem with the IM, but are also helping IM to set up a base in India again.

The IM has managed to keep Maharashtra as its preferred hub for terror activities, sources said, despite the crackdown and intelligence post-26/11 attacks.

And over the years as the security agencies loosened their grip on the IM, it helped the terror outfit develop its network further, said sources.

Sources probing the Pune blast told that the alliance with the HuJI has helped IM in a large way.

"Despite the heat being on the Maharashtra network, it did not deter the IM terrorists from going ahead with their plans," sources said.

According to Intelligence Bureau officials, terror groups will never loosen their hold from Maharashtra -- as most terror cadres hail from this state and the network set up by the Dawood Ibrahim gang only makes their jobs easier.

A Dawood aide, Hamza, who had been picked by the police recently, had confessed that the D-gang network mainly helped terror outfits like IM and HuJI to set up local terror modules and also to import arms and ammunition.

To reign in the IM is no easy task, as a couple of key IM operatives continue to be on the loose. While the Bhatkal brothers continue to monitor the situation from across the border, key IM members such as Mohsin Chaudhary, Yasin and Mudasar, Mohammad Khalid, Mohammad Sajid, Ariz Khan and also Asadullah Akthar, who are out in the open and continue to carry out their operations.

While the modules in Maharashtra were being set up unabated, the focus was on Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and also Karnataka, Hamza had revealed.

Sources pointed out that Gujarat had the least number of terror modules, as the Gujarat police has been most regular and strict with crackdowns compared to other states.

Even though the network in Gujarat was busted to a large extent, the IM continued to tell its cadres that Gujarat would continue to be high on their radar.

An intercept picked up by intelligence agencies between IM activists suggests that Amir Raza Khan, the commander of IM, had instructed his men to move cadres out of Gujarat and relocate them to Kerala, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. These cadres will be reportedly brought back to Gujarat in case of an 'operation'.

Madhya Pradesh is also growing to be another terror hub. Intelligence sources said the IM has raised a number of modules in MP in the past one year, with the help of the local network of the Students Islamic Movement of India, before it was banned.

Also, IM networks in MP and UP are now working in tandem and are trying to restart the training centres in these states again. The SIMI had held its biggest training camp at Choral in MP, before it was busted by the police.

Kerala and Karnataka continue to be cadre hunting grounds for the IM, which has been taking advantage of the communal tension in the coastal belts of the states.

IM recruiters have managed to recruit at least 300 youngsters from Mangalore and Kerala's costal areas in the past one year.
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Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru