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OPINION / ANALYSIS

Southern Terror: Mecca Mosque Blast in Hyderabad

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Thangjam Khurshchev Singh
June 4, 2007

May 18 (Friday) terror blast at Mecca Mosque in Hyderabad reveals the persistent challenge of terrorist groups to foment violence and communal acrimony in India. The blast that took nine lives and injured more than 50 people, occurred during Friday prayers inside the historical Mecca Mosque located near the well-known Charminar, a major landmark of the City that attracts several tourists from India and abroad. The police also recovered three more bombs in the mosque and defused it. Police and investigating agencies have suspected that the blast was masterminded, executed and detonated from Bangladesh with the help of three Indian locals who were responsible for planting the bombs inside the mosque. Government sources explained that foreign involvement in the blast is inconclusive in the absence of proof.

Nevertheless, needle of suspicion points towards Bangladeshi-based Harhat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) as the outfit responsible for the act and is operating in the city over the last few years under Muhammed Abdul Sahed (Bilal) who is originally from Gujarat but now supposed to be hiding in Pakistan. Bilal, the prime suspect, is also one of the main accused of February 18 Samjhauta Express blasts which took 66 lives, including Pakistani nationals. He has also been in the top of the wanted list for masterminding a suicide attack on the special task force’s headquarters in Hyderabad on October 12, 2005 that left one police personnel dead. The recovery of the Mobile SIM card from a defused explosive revealed the address of Kolkata’s Jodasankho area and it is suspected that perhaps the perpetrators have links with Bangladesh-based HuJI.

HuJI has units in India mostly in West Bengal and Assam and now spreading its network in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka as well. Reliable sources have disclosed that the terrorists responsible for the mosque blast are also planning to sneak into Mysore to take shelter and operate from there. Apart from the outfit’s connections with the Northeast insurgents, it has intricate linkages with Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) under the aegis of foreign espionage like Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Bangladeshi Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI).

Blasts in the mosque are not uncommon in India. Since last year 2006, three different blasts (including the Hyderabad blast) occurred on the same sacred day (Friday) in different mosques in different states to generate communal tensions between Muslim and Hindus. In Delhi, on April 14, 2006, 13 people were injured in two low-intensity explosions that took place inside the Jama Mosque when the people were offering prayers. On September 8, 2006, 41 civilian died and 297 others were injured at four serial blasts when devotees were moving out from the Arehmani Mosque and Bada Kabristan (cemetery) after the Friday prayers again in Malegaon, Maharashtra. However, none of the incidents could bring out any communal violence as expected by the perpetrators.

Though terrorist outfit was not able to foment any communal riot in the case of Mecca Mosque blast, it successfully instigated the public to go against the government as indicated by the security forces firing at the mob killing five people. Subsequently, the state government was blamed by the public and other central intelligence communities for the lapse of security. The CCTV camera, a key monitoring tool for policing and vigilance that was set up in and around the Mecca Mosque was removed several months ago by the state authority. In addition, the Rapid Action Force (RAP) deployed in the area was also removed since March 20, 2007 on some unknown reason. The security lapse happened despite the National Security Advisor M K Narayanan declaring Hyderabad as being on the terror hit-list as it has Jehadi cadres operating in the city and also alerted the townships like Aligarh and Guwahati about terror strikes.

Developments in several sectors in Hyderabad pull terrorists towards the city to strike against and impede Indian growing economy. The advent of Information Technology in India, the so called “Blue Chip Revolution” fostered the growth of Hyderabad’s economy. The presence of software technology campuses and various leading IT companies have given her the title of the second Silicon Plateau in India after Bangalore. After security was tightened in Bangalore following terrorist activities, the terrorist started to divert to other IT cities such as Hyderabad where security is still not strong. Taking advantage of the alleged security lapse in South India, terrorists are trying to establish a kind of safe heaven in the southern and western states of India. Hence, not only the mosques or temples, cities with IT and other economic potentials have also a high risk of terror strikes that needs security situation to be strengthened.

The above discussions reveal that despite failure, the foreign terror outfits are repeatedly targeting mosques and other religious places to foment communal tension in the various parts of India. On the other hand, the existence of terrorist module in the city would continually threaten InfoTech and Biotech sectors. Therefore, modernizing the security and intelligence agencies and involvement of common people would help to dismantle the modules further in South India.

Thangjam Khurshchev Singh is a Researcher at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi.