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ISI's new strategy

ISI's new strategy

Author: Wilson John
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 14, 2007

The terror network has expanded with ISI establishing contacts with Maoists and Islamist NGOs in Nepal to plan and execute anti-India operations

The arrest of a Nepalese gun runner in Baramullah early this month is unraveling clues that confirm the expanding network of terror in and around India, aided by Pakistan based terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) and the ISI. Pasang Lama, a resident of Humla district near Kathmandu, has been acting as a conduit between Maoists in Nepal and LeT in Jammu & Kashmir, orchestrated by the ISI which, since the peace process between India and Pakistan began in 2004, has been trying to cobble together a coalition of terror groups targeting India.

The ISI's game plan in Nepal is not new. The difference is in the strategy, which fits in neatly with the overall plan to raise the level of terrorist threat to India without getting Pakistan into the dock. Lama is a tiny cog in this wheel.

Lama, who rented out a room in G-49, Vikas Marg, Laxmi Nagar (a low-middle class, crowded locality in east Delhi), worked under the camouflage of a shawl and carpet dealer. He was a frequent visitor to Jammu & Kashmir and lived, for three months in a year, in Srinagar. His main contact person in Srinagar was a High Court lawyer, Abdul Latif Wani while in Delhi, Lama, took orders from Kunjup Tsering who happened to be the gun runner for Maoists.

Lama made his money by buying weapons from Kashmiri terrorist groups at cheaper rates and selling it at a higher price to Tsering. The transactions were facilitated through the accounts of Wani in Jammu & Kashmir Bank and Vijaya Bank. Last December, Lama paid Rs 4,77,000 to buy AK-47 rifles, hand grenades, rocket launchers and pistols which he delivered to Tsering in a fruit truck. Lama and Tsering have been in the business of gun running for the past four years.

Lama's interrogation revealed that he had more than weapons on his agenda. He was an ISI agent networking with Maoists as well as terrorist groups like LeT establishing not only a conduit for weapons but also for training. He was liaisoning with LeT members to set up joint training camps for making IEDs.

Lama's disclosures are not really surprising. Evidence has been gathering for quite some time about the re-grouping of ISI-backed Muslim outfits, funded by West Asian entities, terrorist groups like LeT in Nepal, specially in the terai region which has been a traditional recruitment and training ground for terrorist groups. Muslims constitute 4.2 per cent of the Nepalese population and of which 96.7 per cent live in the terai region.

Almost all the recent terrorist attacks in India - Ayodhya attack of July 2005, Delhi blast of October 2005, Varanasi attack of March 2006 and the Mumbai train serial blasts of July 2006 - have Nepal links. LeT operatives, involved in the attacks, have either used Nepal as a transit point between Pakistan and Bangladesh or masterminded terrorist operations in India from Kathmandu and other towns.

Two days after the Mumbai blasts, two Pakistanis, involved in the planning of the attack carried out by LeT, Moiddin Siddiqui and Ghulam Hasan Cheema, were caught from a five-star hotel in Kathmandu. In the huge arms cache caught in Maharashtra early 2006, two months before the Mumbai blast, one of the key operatives caught in the aftermath was Akif Biyabani, an associate of Zahibuddin Ansari alias Zaby, a LeT commander who has planned the operations in Nepal early 2005.

Although Nepal has been known to play host to ISI and its various front organisations, there has been a significant shift in the strategy after 9/11. Instead of operating own units, as it was doing in the past, the ISI has been keen on establishing networks with Maoists and Muslim NGOs to plan and execute anti-India operations. Last November, Nepal Maoist chief Prachanda revealed that the ISI had offered to help his group through "direct or indirect" means.

Some of the NGOs, which are known to be sheltering terrorist groups like LeT in Nepal, include Kashmir Jama Masjid Democratic Muslim Association, Nepal World Islamic Council and Nepal Islamic Yuva Sangh, Jamat-e-Ahle-Hadis, Millet-e-Islami and Jam Seraj-ul Alam. The number of such institutions, according to a recent intelligence report prepared by Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), could be as high as 73. The report detailed the involvement of ISI (and Pakistani High Commission officials) in using these organisations for anti-India operations.

These organisations are largely funded by charity organisations and banks based in West Asia and Pakistan. There is evidence of the involvement of the Islamic Development Bank (Jeddah) and Habib Bank of Pakistan, which has a partner stake in Nepal's Himalayan Bank, in facilitating the transfer of funds for anti-India activities. The latest report only confirms an earlier report, 'Pakistan's Anti-India Activities in Nepal' (2000), which gave details of ISI's modus operandi, including the use of NGOs and madarsas in anti-India operations.

One of the districts where jihadis are grouping rapidly is Sunsari where a large number of illegal Bangladeshis have settled in the recent times. The NGO which is active in the area is Nepali Islamic Sangh which is working in tandem with the Bangladesh-based Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), an associate of Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI).

HuJI, known as the Bangladeshi Taliban, is an Al Qaeda clone and has been recruiting terrorists in Bangladesh and India. JMB is known as the operational arm of HuJI. As investigations in the terrorist attacks in the last two years in India have shown both HuJI and JMB have aligned with LeT and Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) to establish terror networks across India. Lama's arrest in Srinagar this month confirms this widening network.

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