Dr Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra, Mumbai

The riddle called the Mumbai terror attack still remains unsolved with new threads coming to picture. The terror strike in Mumbai last year that killed 174 people including children and women still reverberates in the memory of the people of Mumbai and reminds the ghastly designs of the terrorists whose networks spread all over the globe. In this particular terror attack their connections have so far with certainty been traced to Pakistan. The recent development bring to picture the wider network spreading further towards the US and Italy. The arrest of David Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana in Chicago airport in October 2009 and Mohammad Yaqub Janijua and his son Aamer Yaqub Janijua in the northern Italian town of Brescia on 21 November 2009 brings to the picture the deep entrenchment and spread of terror networks.

David Headley, a US citizen aged 49, is of Pakistan origin. In 2006 he changed his name from Daood Gilani to David Coleman Headley to give his name a veneer of un-Islamic identity in order to make the terrorist linkages and operation covert. It will, he might have calculated, also help escape the eyes of security agencies. He along with Tahawwur Rana, another person from Pakistani origin, but currently a Canadian national, was arrested for plotting the attack on the Danish cartoonist and the newspaper named Jyllands-Posten. The newspaper had portrayed cartoon of Prophet Mohammed in 2005.

On interrogation, the involvement of Headely and Rana in terrorist activities was found deep rooted. In the context of Mumbai, both of them had visited India many times in 2007 and 2008. They travelled across India including the city of Mumbai. Headely visited in addition to Mumbai to other Indian cities such as Cochi, Lucknow and Pune to establish links. During these visits they also gave concrete shape to the designs for the terror attack in Mumbai in 2008.

Reportedly, Headely had stayed in the Taj Hotel, which suffered the maximum casualties due to the barbaric act, just before few days of the terror attack in order to most likely for a reconnaissance purpose to make the heinous attack a success. The Indian home ministry has been tight lipped over the issue as the investigations are still in not conclusive stage. But it has been conclusively established that Headley with close links with Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a Pakistan based banned terror outfit, played an important role in the Mumbai terror attack. As further investigations reveal, Headley and Rana had in their agenda to facilitate terrors attacks on India’s national defence college and other government establishments.

With the Italian connection to the terror designs the plot has become much thicker. On 21 November the Italian police arrested the Janijua father son duo for their involvement in the attack. Mohammad Janijua, the owner of the business centre, Madina trading corporation, is found culprit mainly owing to two reasons. First, on 25 November 2008 the centre transferred money electronically to US for voice over internet protocol (VoIP) telephone service, which was in fact used by the terrorists and their handlers while the terror attack was going on in Mumbai. The internet voice service facilitated the smooth conduct of the attack. Second, Janijua transferred money to the US in the name of the Pakistan national who in fact never visited Italy. Hence, it was illegal. Reportedly, the Italian police have arrested two more Pakistani nationals in Brescia in this connection while another wanted Pakistani national is missing.
The alleged involvement of a retired Pakistani army official Ilyas Kashmiri with the plans of Headley and Rana has led to finger of suspicion towards Pakistan army of probable involvement in this whole process. Kashmiri has been arrested by Pakistan investigation agencies and detained for questioning. Pakistan, which itself is a victim of militant violence in its north west and other parts, has taken this concrete step in a move to show its cooperation in the anti-terror operations.

Reportedly, there are some other personnel in its army with likely involvement that Islamabad is seemingly not willing to further explore or wants the matter to be investigated in a low profile way within its official investigation process. It is common knowledge that the outfit LeT, banned since 2001, played a major role in orchestrating the Mumbai terror attack. Its leader, Hafeez Saeed is a free man in Pakistan. It took one year for Pakistan to file charge sheet against other six main culprits in the attack including the LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.

Despite a year’s pass the Mumbai terror attack did not change much the security thinking of India as well as globe. A simple statement of truth would corroborate this view point. Even after lapse of one year, there is no concrete action taken against the culprits of the attack. They are still roaming free. The India-Pakistan logjam has further complicated the matter, and provides the terrorists the alibi to further disturb peace and stability in the south Asian region.

With further effective probe and investigations by Pakistan there will be likely more skeletons getting revealed in the cupboards. And needless to say the revelation of the whole plot and its masterminds is crucial not only for India but for the whole civilized international community as the terror plans are not only India-centric – they are interconnected, driven by same ideology and similar devious designs.
The terror network from Mumbai to Chicago to Brescia may be just a small spot in the terror map. The terrorist network, manpower, intelligence, money power all are so richly cultivated in the terror designs, it is simply impossible on part of one country to tackle the terror menace. Here comes to picture the necessity of international collaboration to tackle the menace by attacking terrorist training camps, targeting their leaders, and by preaching the values of coexistence and harmony. Probably that is the message of the first anniversary of the Mumbai terror attack when hundreds of people from all religions gathered at different places of the city, including at the Gateway of India, to pay homage to the victims of the attacks.

Dr. Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra is part of the research faculty at the Centre for Central Eurasian Studies, University of Mumbai.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 4 Dec 2009.

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