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One more e-mail message purporting to be from the so-called Indian Mujahideen [Images] was reported to have been received on the evening of August 23 by a TV news channel. It is suspected to have been sent from a computer in Mumbai's Khalsa College. The police have initiated investigations to identify the originator.
As in the case of the earlier message before the Ahmedabad [Images] blasts of July 26, 2008, the suspicion in the present case too is focussed on one Abdul Subhan Quereshi, projected by police officers of Gujarat as an information-technology literate activist of the Students Islamic Movement of India, who operates from Mumbai. He has also been projected as an expert in the assembly of improvised explosive devices. He is still absconding and has evaded capture by the police of both Gujarat and Mumbai.
To prove its authenticity, the message carries the photographs of some IEDs under the caption 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' and of two cars which were used for the blasts in Ahmedabad. This modus operandi is similar to the use of a picture of bicycles with IEDs attached to them in the e-mail received by a news channel after the Jaipur [Images] blasts of May 13, 2008. In the e-mails sent by the IM before the blasts in three cities of Uttar Pradesh [Images] on November 23, 2007, and before the Ahmedabad blasts, the IM apparently did not feel the need for authenticity since the blasts themselves, which occurred after the receipt of the e-mails, served as proof. In the e-mails sent after the Jaipur and Ahmedabad blasts, pictures were attached as proof of authenticity.
The messages sent before the UP blasts and after the Jaipur blast were purported to have been sent by one Guru al-Hind, which was suspected to be a reference to Afsal Guru, who has been sentenced to death for his role in the terrorist strike against the Indian Parliament in December 2001. His mercy petition is still under examination by the Government of India.
The message sent before the Ahmedabad blasts was purported to have been sent by the same Guru-al-Hind. By the side of his signature at the bottom of the message, the word Al-Arbi was written in capital letters. Al-Arbi means 'The Arab'. It also stands for Wednesday. It was taken to mean that the message must have been signed by Guru al-Hind on the Wednesday preceding the blasts. In the latest message, the reference to Guru al-Hind is not there -- neither in the e-mail identity nor at the bottom of the message. Instead, the message is signed as Al-Arbi in capital letters.
The e-mail identity of the originator has also been changed to al-arbi-al-Hind. In this context, al-Arbi could mean only 'The Arab' and not Wednesday. Thus, the e-mail identity used means 'The Arab of India'. Why so, since the IM claims to be an organisation totally of Indian Muslims with no external links? Why the originator projects himself as 'The Arab'? Is it a reference to one of the two Indian Muslims operating from Saudi Arabia for many years?
One of them referred to by Pakistani jihadis as Abu Abdel Aziz was linked to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. He had played what the jihadis considered as a legendary role in organising jihad in Bosnia and was also closely involved in assisting the jihadis in J&K. There was no evidence in the past to believe that Abu Abdel Aziz was connected with SIMI [Images]. The other Indian Muslim in Saudi Arabia is C A M Basheer of Kerala [Images], who was the president of SIMI in the 1980s. He was co-ordinating the activities of SIMI in India and the Gulf from Saudi Arabia.
The latest message, like the previous one, has many religious quotations and allusions. It is quite abusive. The language used is typical Indian English � not Pakistani or Arab. It uses abuses like 'bastards' that one picks up more in a secular educational institution than in a madrasa. It shows a propensity for the use of the verb 'await' as in previous messages. It tries to refute the allegations of the Gujarat police that the SIMI activists arrested by them were the perpetrators of the Ahmedabad blasts. It denies that SIMI has metamorphosed into the IM as alleged by the Gujarat police. It seeks to convey the impression that the real perpetrators have not been captured.
Interestingly, it also tries to implicate Ken Haywood, an American missionary worker who was working in Mumbai and whose computer was suspected by the police to have been used by the Indian Mujahideen without his knowledge, as a conscious collaborator. It thanks him and an associate of his for their co-operation and guidance in making the attack in Ahmedabad a success. Haywood has since run away from India when police investigation against him was in progress. Did he allow the IM to use his computer without knowing their background as a terrorist organisation?
The message warns of fidayeen attacks in the future. Some senior SIMI leaders arrested by the Madhya Pradesh [Images] police in Indore in March last were reported to have stated that they had experimented with peroxide-based liquid explosives during a training camp held in Kerala last year. Peroxide-based explosives are increasingly the favourite choice of pro-Al Qaeda jihadi organisations and elements abroad, including in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A peroxide-based explosive was used by the
suicide bombers in their terrorist strikes in London [Images] in July 2005. Is the IM planning to use peroxide-based explosives for suicide attacks in future?
The SIMI leaders arrested by the MP Police had also reportedly claimed during their interrogation that they had considered the options of hijacking an aircraft or taking of hostages before deciding on serial blasts. The IM may still resort to this modus operandi to get those arrested by the Gujarat police released.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi [Images], and, presently, Director, Institute for Tropical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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