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Who are the “Indian Mujahideen”?

T. Khurshchev Singh was Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile
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  • May 30, 2008

    At least nine co-ordinated blasts rocked Jaipur on May 13, 2008, killing more than 70 people and injuring 200. Subsequently, a little known Islamic militant group, Indian Mujahideen (henceforth IM), claimed responsibility for the attacks through an e-mail that contained threatening assertions. The authenticity of the mail has been confirmed by the Indian Intelligence Bureau. Since then, the security establishment in India has been trying to decipher the details of this organisation.

    The E-Mail Message

    The group declared in its e-mail that the blasts were triggered to impede the tourism economy in Rajasthan and to oppose moderate Muslims in the region who were against Jihadi activities. Like other Jihadi outfits such as Al-Qaeda, the IM’s epistle carried messages threatening American and British tourists in India.

    Explaining the group’s motives, the e-mail reminded the public of the Gujarat riots of 2002 and the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. As justification for its acts of terror, the group put out the interpretation that terrorists are those Hindus who killed Muslims in Gujarat and Maharashtra, not the ones who took revenge for these. It further claimed that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Shiv Sena are terrorist organisations funded by Hindus.

    The group also claimed responsibility for the serial blasts at the Varanasi court premises, the lawyers’ chambers in Faizabad, and a civil court in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh (UP) on November 23, 2007. In fact, this is the second time that the group has revealed its name in public. Two other similar mails under the same outfit‘s name were received by some newspaper and television channels after the UP blasts (November 2007), which had warned of more such strikes in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Ghaziabad.

    Facts behind the Mail IDs

    The mail IDs used by the perpetrators after the November 23, 2007 blasts (, and the May 13, 2008 blasts ( originated from East Delhi and Ghaziabad, respectively. According to investigations, the name Guru, which is in the first two mails, was initially revealed during the interrogation of an alleged Indian operative of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B) by the name of Jalaluddin alias Amanullah Mandal alias Babu Bhai who is currently in prison. Babu Bhai told his interrogators that Guru was a contact person of HuJI-B stationed in New Delhi. The name again came up after the recent arrest of HuJI-B cadre Abdur Rehman near New Delhi Railway station on May 21, 2008 with 3.1 kilograms of RDX. Rehman said that Babu Bhai had given him three kilograms of RDX and seven kilograms to Guru in January 2001. Guru might have used some of the explosives in the UP blasts. In fact, Babu Bhai was arrested with nine kilograms of high explosives, an AK-47 rifle, two magazines and 60 cartridges of AK-47, 20 hand-grenades and 10 detonators on June 23, 2007 by the UP police in Lucknow.

    Apart from the congruence of the three mail IDs, the locations where the perpetrators accessed the Internet were in close proximity, further indicating that terror elements are increasingly becoming active in areas around Delhi. Though the capital has a strong security apparatus, its neighbouring areas are relatively less secure. Ghaziabad, for example, has far less security than New Delhi. Terrorist groups are reportedly functioning there and there is thus a need to enhance security in Ghaziabad as well as other areas around Delhi.

    In search of the IM

    In their search for the IM, the Indian security establishment and intelligence agencies have again turned towards HuJI-B and the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). They have excluded the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). After the UP and Jaipur blasts, Indian intelligence agencies had disclosed that IM comprises activists from banned outfits like HuJI-B and SIMI. However, some security analysts believe that IM is a group of ex-SIMI cadres rather than HuJI-B. Others even claim that the IM is a fake organisation that was designed to misguide investigating agencies. In fact, claiming responsibility for an attack by an unknown or a fake group has become a diversionary tactic for many terrorist groups operating in India. It helps them to confuse the security establishment in tracing their trail. After the 7/11 attacks in Mumbai, a claim was made through an e-mail by a new group called Lashkar-e-Qahar. Similarly, after the October 2005 Delhi serial blasts, an unknown outfit, Inquilabi (Revolutionary) Group, claimed responsibility for the attack and warned about more such attacks in future. Likewise, the responsibility for the Varanasi terrorist attack on January 7, 2006 was claimed by a fictitious group called Lashkar-e-Qaharby. And an unknown outfit called Tehriq-e-Qasas claimed responsibility for the attack on Akshardham temple in Ahmedabad on September 24, 2002.

    In recent times, the role of HuJI-B in acts of terror has been gaining prominence in India. (In India, agencies and newspapers refer to the group as HuJI. But it is necessary to distinguish it from the group having the same name operating from Pakistan.) In fact, HuJI-B is believed to have replaced Pakistan-based groups like the LeT and JeM in carrying out attacks in India. HuJI-B is also said to be at the forefront of recruitment and training of militants from India and that it serves as a conduit for logistical support like provision of explosives and money for attacks in India. In addition, it is believed that HuJI-B’s operations in India are facilitated by a substantial number of illegal Bangladeshis living in various parts of the country.

    ISI’s Attempt to Create New Outfits

    However, after the IM’s repeated claims, it appears that a new militant group has emerged to operate mainly in the Indian heartland. This also has to be seen in the context of persistent suspicion in India that foreign outfits like the LeT, JeM and HuJI-B, in conjunction with locals drawn from SIMI, are involved in every major terrorist attack. To avoid such branding, the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) is seen to be engaged in creating new terrorist organisations that are peopled only by Indian recruits. This has been revealed by the large number of arrests of Indian operatives in recent years. But it is unlikely that these groups would have carried out their attacks without foreign assistance. Moreover, it is also probable that these groups, functioning under new names, are in fact the cells of groups like the LeT and the JeM.

    Is Indian Mujahideen SIMI’s new Name?

    Could IM be another name for the banned SIMI or a combination of SIMI and HuJI-B operatives in India (as stated by IB)? Both these organisations have in the last two years become notorious after a series of co-ordinated blasts in Malegaon, Hyderabad, Ajmer, Faizabad, Varanasi, Lucknow and Jaipur. The regrouping of SIMI has been strongly felt in recent times, especially after its threat to blow up the Life Insurance Corporation headquarters in Mumbai on May 24, 2008 if its members who had been arrested in Madhya Pradesh (MP) were not released. MP police had arrested 57 SIMI activists, including 13 top leaders, in March and April 2008. The letter from SIMI was received on May 17, 2008 by the LIC office, which has been confirmed by the Mumbai Police. Interestingly, it was a first of its kind terror threat from the outfit, clearly indicating that it has the ability and intent to carry out major strikes.

    Is IM a new outfit?

    So far, no arrests have been made of IM activists within the country or outside. However, authorities are still on the hunt to trace the roots of this organisation. The intelligence agencies seem to stick to their theory that IM might be a bogus name created to divert their investigation. But at the same time, the IM has been included in Gujarat’s terror list and accepted as a new outfit after the Jaipur incident. The Rajasthan state police, however, believe that IM is a cover for HuJI-B.

    Whether IM is a new group or not, the perpetrators who triggered the Jaipur blasts seem to have the expertise in using/assembling explosives, the capability to choose vulnerable targets, good in organisation (using unknown locals) and fast in fading away – all characteristics of a well organised outfit. In the past, there were no significant arrests of any hardcore terrorist that could directly connect to any blast and, hence, most investigations could not move forward beyond a point. Consequently, this obscurity factor seems to endorse the likelihood that the IM is a hidden group that has existed for some time now.

    Without unravelling the IM’s organisational objective, command structure, particular areas of influence, strength of cadre, and funding system, authorities would not be able to confirm its existence as a separate, well-organised outfit. However, considering the fact that the ISI has been trying to build new outfits in India, the re-emergence of SIMI as IM and the latter’s repeated claims over various attacks need to be thoroughly checked. It is paramount that Indian intelligence and security agencies uncover the facts about the IM and crush it before it spreads its tentacles.