November 5, 2014
Pakistani rangers (wearing black uniforms) and Indian Border Security Force (BSF) officers lower their national flags during a daily parade at the Pakistan-India joint check-post at Wagah border, near Lahore November 3, 2014.
(Reuters) - Decrypted communications between Indian Mujahideen (IM) and al Qaeda and testimony from suspects have triggered alarm among intelligence officials in New Delhi: the groups appear to be working together to launch major attacks in the region.
The officials told Reuters that plots they had uncovered included the kidnapping of foreigners and turning India into a “Syria and Iraq where violence is continuously happening”.
Allegiances between Islamist militant groups can be murky and fleeting, and providing concrete proof of operational ties is notoriously difficult.
But Indian security agencies said evidence they had gathered pointed to growing ties between al Qaeda and IM, a home-grown movement hitherto known for low-level attacks on local targets using relatively crude weapons like pressure cooker bombs.
Weeks after al Qaeda announced the formation of a South Asia wing to strike across the subcontinent, agencies said they had discovered IM members were training with al Qaeda and other groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan for major attacks.
That increases the risk of a more dangerous form of militancy in the world’s biggest democracy, which has been largely spared the kind of violence that regularly rocks its neighbor Pakistan and, beyond it, Afghanistan.
Security officials cite last Sunday’s deadly suicide bombing on the Pakistani side of a border crossing with India, and a terror alert on Tuesday at two eastern ports that forced the Indian navy to withdraw two ships, as evidence that militant coordination and activity are on the rise.
"The thing we are looking for is how al Qaeda/ISIS tie up with local groups, especially as the drawdown takes place in Afghanistan," said Sharad Kumar, head of the NIA (National Investigation Agency), the country’s main counter-terrorism arm.
HARDENED FIGHTERS HEAD HOME?