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As terrorism acquires global hi-tech dimensions, nations struggle to cope with this real threat

Syed Nazakat in New Delhi

Five years after 9/11, security agencies worldwide have learned a great deal about how to fight terrorism. But the problem remains that the terrorist outfits too have learned a lot in this new age of terror. It is an open war where both the sides are learning from their mistakes and are checking and counter-checking each other. But one thing is quite clear that post 9/11 terrorism has acquired a deadlier dimension and has become far more sophisticated with new techniques, targets and technology. The terrorists have learnt about the apt use of the internet as an easy communication tool; the laptops to coordinate and draw plans, the mobile phones to trigger bombs, the fidayeen attacks to kill enemies while dying and to use liquid fluids to spread terror in the air. In short the terror Inc has turned hi-tech to execute their deadly plots. This is a new age of terror the world is living with today.

Worse, terrorism is spreading to new places and the terrorist outfits are learning how to handle sophisticated weapons, make bombs and just as important, not fear the enemy. In India, Kashmir continues to be on fire. And the neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh are not only becoming a recruiting ground but also a training base for future Jehadis.

Importantly, terrorists worldwide have also learnt how and where to hit to cause maximum damage. Sample this: just two months after 9/11, the terrorists carried out deadly attack on the Indian parliament. After investigations, it became clear that the plot behind the parliament attack was plotted months back and the terrorists had extensively used laptops, mobile phones and had visited the parliament area to facilitate their attack.

It was just the beginning of new terror tactics where terrorist outfits wanted to know everything about their targets to hit their enemies. The serial bombings in Delhi, Varanasi, and more recently in Mumbai gives an indepth insight into how terrorists are plotting and planning their attacks. And when the army fenced the 725 long Line of Control in Kashmir, they thought it will end infiltration from across the border but little did they know that militants would learn how to cut and infiltrate into this side of border. The suicide attacks and foiled terror plot in London has also confirmed the worse fears of security agencies that the terrorists can go to any level to target their enemy.

The abortive London bombing plot was, in a sense, a victory for the West in its battle against terrorism. But a peep into the recent terror attacks shows how the terrorists can turn old plots into new one. The terrorists learn from the experiments and mistakes of their predecessors. When Jaish-e-Mohammed failed to accomplish its mission in J&K assembly attack, they carried similar suicide attack on Indian parliament, which stalled the India-Pakistan peace process. 

So where do we stand after five years of 9/11?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh candidly accepted the grim reality when he told the chief ministers at a meeting on internal security last week in New Delhi that the country is facing a real terror threat. He shared with the chief ministers the feedback provided by the intelligence agencies that terrorism is spreading to the new areas and the government has to fight terrorism on all its fronts.

“Intelligence agencies warn of a further intensification of violent activities with the possibility of more fidayeen attacks, use of suicide bombers, attacks on economic and religious targets, targeting of vital installations, including nuclear establishments and army camps,” he told the chief ministers while elaborating that the reports also suggest that terrorist modules and sleeper cells exist in some of our urban areas, all of which highlight the seriousness of the threat.

India has already sought help from other countries to fight terrorism. Israel is already supplying military and surveillance equipment to Indian army to fight insurgency in Kashmir. And now, India is seeking tactical help from the United States to tackle the growing menace of terrorism. Right now, the Indian Army is having its largest exercise with US forces to train Indian soldiers for counter-insurgency operations in urban areas at a military base in Hawaii. A 140-strong Indian contingent left New Delhi a fortnight before to participate with troops from the 25th Infantry division of the US Pacific Command. This is the second training exercise of its type this year, said officials of the US embassy.

In Kashmir the government has raised special counter insurgency force, Rashtriya Riffles and more recently the Territorial Army which consists of local youth to fight insurgency. The strategy is that the local guys aware of the language and terrain can play a vital role in defeating militant outfits. But according to the home ministry details the graph of violence is not abating and more and more local guys are joining the militants.

A senior army officer in Kashmir told Sahara Time that the biggest problem the security forces and agencies are facing today is that there is no effective communication between various security agencies and intelligence agencies. “The terrorist outfits have effective communications and networking than security agencies,” he lamented.

It is because of this high level of communication and networking that terrorists have today embedded themselves in local society. According to the security agencies the Pakistan based pan-India terrorist outfit LeT, which has the blessings of Al-Qaida, has succeeded in forming their sleeping cells in many states of India. The clues came thick and fast immediately after the recent serial bombing in Delhi and Mumbai. The investigating agencies believe that carrying such deadly attacks would not be possible without locals’ active assistance. It is unclear if terrorist outfits like LeT’s central command in India, a hierarchical command structure, still exerts authority, but it may not matter: with the Internet and fanatical inspiration, LeT can morph and spread to new areas.

The recent London terror plot has also shown that terrorists have changed their tactics. As a senior intelligence officer said, “You don’t need a nuke to pull off a 9/11 type horror show. All you need is a few pounds of explosives in tooth-paste tubes!”

The safety measures introduced at major airports in the wake of abortive airline bombings in London must have left many wondering: Have terrorists finally pushed us into a state of paranoia?

The concern is not without basis when you have operations at a busy airport ground to a halt because passengers have to be screened for – of all things – baby-milk, bottled water, nail-polish and lipstick! The truth of the matter, however, is that today five years after the 9/11 terrorists have become deadlier than ever before. 

(Sahara Time, 2006)

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