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New Age Terror
Came to Stay in 2006
|by Murali Krishnan|
It was the synchronized explosions of seven bombs that ripped through packed commuter trains and stations in Mumbai's evening rush hour killing 187 that was the defining moment of terror in 2006, marking the deadliest attack in the country in more than a decade.
The torrent of blasts in 15 minutes not only brought chaos and carnage to the railway backbone running through India's financial hub but also demonstrated how an entirely new breed of terrorists had emerged, differing in both structure and morphology from those of the past.
As National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan succinctly put it, "motives and morale, men and material, scale and scope all have changed. Many more terrorist outfits today have a transnational reach".
In fact, investigations bore out the charge as a common thread linked the 7/11 Mumbai attack with the terror strike in the holy city of Varanasi and the abortive attempts at the Indian Military Academy in Dehra Dun and the National Police Academy in Hyderabad.
"Most (terrorists) are seemingly untethered to geographical locations or even to political ideologies," pronounced Narayanan.
Terror attacks, whether in Madrid or Mumbai, or suicide bombers be they in Jerusalem or Jammu, showed the same pattern of improvisation of tactics, weaponry and reconnaissance techniques.
What was specially noteworthy was that captured militants, according to Narayanan, whether in Kashmir, London or Indonesia, claim that it has been possible to acculturate recruits coming from different climes, backgrounds and countries though a uniform training programme.
In short, cross-cultural compatibility had paved the way for deadly attacks in unexpected locales.
It was no surprise then that investigations revealed that nine Pakistani-based jehadi terrorists, of whom one died, came through three different routes - Bangladesh, Nepal and the sea route - and were directly involved in the planting of the bombs in collusion with a score of Indians.
Blasts that rocked the communal sensitive western Indian town of Malegaon killing 38 persons as worshipers streamed out after Friday prayers, the unsuccessful attack on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters where three suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists were killed and a foiled terror plot to attack Bangalore's vital installations, including the state secretariat, IT and biotechnology sectors were some of the other prominent attacks that shook the nation.
Over 2,250 people were killed in terrorism-related violence in 2006, almost 1,000 people less than the previous year, but one startling, yet worrying fact that the security establishment suddenly woke up to was that new age terror had come to stay.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned chief ministers to revamp past security practices, brace themselves to prepare for today's new terrorism, and specifically referred to intelligence agencies warnings of more terrorist attacks, possibly on economic and religious targets, as well as on nuclear installations.
Almost as a reaction to Singh's grim forewarning, Home Minister Shivraj Patil immediately announced a sum of Rs.9 billion for shoring up security in all coastal states with Rs.5 million earmarked specially for Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Airports were on constant high alert as the security officials realized that transportation links were prime targets for terror groups the world over and India was no exception.
The Maoist rebellion, now considered the single biggest internal security challenge, continued to pose serious threats to the security framework. Huge swathes of the country appeared to have fallen off the map of good governance, susceptible to lawlessness and organized criminal activity with the central state of Chhattisgarh emerging as the nerve centre of Left wing extremism.
With over 650 people having died in Maoist-related violence and the threat appearing to have overtaken all other insurgencies - at least 165 districts in 14 states affected - the government's strategy to counter the daring and bloody attacks with a focus on reducing underdevelopment, was clearly floundering.
Data complied by the Institute for Conflict Management showed that the rampaging movement was expanding with the 10,000-strong force of Maoist extremists gradually building up its red surge.
Though the composite dialogue process moved in fits and starts, there was a decline in violence levels in Jammu and Kashmir as 873 people died in terrorism related incidents compared to 1,732 the previous year.
To show that militancy was still up and kicking, at least 31 people, including 20 paramilitary troopers, were injured in eight separate blasts in the state even as the prime minister was in the summer capital for the second roundtable conference on Kashmir.
Certain states in northeast showed remarkable signs of recovery in their fight against insurgency. Tripura, once considered to be one of the most violent states, recorded less than 48 insurgency-related deaths. Similarly, the fight against the rebellion in Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh also were successful.
But at the same time, Manipur and Assam continued to be hit by rebel violence despite operations by the security forces. Nagaland, where both the dominant groups are in ceasefire agreements with the government, continued to witness fratricidal clashes, large-scale extortion and abductions with authorities virtually held hostage to the diktats of these outfits.
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