x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Indian Mujahideen at head of Mumbai bombings suspect list

In the hours after the blasts which shook three Mumbai neighbourhoods, many fingers were pointed towards Indian Mujahideen, a militant group made up of young, disaffected Muslims across India that has only been on the radar for three years.

NEW DELHI // While no one has claimed responsibility and investigators are refusing to speculate about who was behind Wednesday's bomb attacks in Mumbai, one group has emerged at the top of most suspect lists: Indian Mujahideen.

The Indian home minister, P Chidambaram, said that his government would look at "every possible hostile group and find out whether they are behind the blast". But in the hours after the blasts, which shook three Mumbai neighbourhoods, many fingers were pointed towards Indian Mujahideen, a militant group that has only been on the radar for three years. The Intelligence Bureau say the group is made up of young, disaffected Muslims that are based across India.

Indian Mujahideen is believed to be a militant offshoot of the Students Islamic Movement of India, a youth organisation that formed in the town of Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, in 1977. Simi, as it is commonly known, claimed in its literature to reject the Indian constitution and to support Islamist militancy. The Indian government banned Simi shortly after the September 11 attacks.

But the theory that Indian Mujahideen and Simi are linked has been disputed, and some observers say Indian Mujahideen has ties to Pakistan.

Christine Fair, a security studies scholar at Georgetown University in Washington, wrote in a paper published in January 2010 that "IM does not exist at all but is instead an effort by Pakistan's external intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to project an Indian face to the activities of Pakistan-based militant groups."

The bombings in Mumbai seem to fit into a pattern established by previous attacks in which Indian Mujahideen has claimed responsibility.

Mr Chidambaram, confirmed yesterday that the explosive used in Mumbai was ammonium nitrate, a compound found commonly in high-nitrogen fertilisers. Ammonium nitrate devices were also used in the five low-intensity serial blasts in New Delhi on September 13, 2008, and in a single blast in the capital on September 27, 2008.

The Indian Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the first set of serial blasts in New Delhi, as well as for several other attacks in various Indian cities since 2007.

As with Wednesday night's blasts, each of those previous attacks used low-intensity ammonium nitrate bombs, and they were all planted in crowded public areas or in marketplaces to have maximum effect.

Media reports in India have also pointed to the tendency of attacks to occur on the 13th or the 26th of a month. At least four attacks - including Wednesday's blasts in Mumbai - have occurred on the 13th.

Another three attacks have occurred roughly around the 26th; this includes the November 26, 2008 attacks on Mumbai, although those attacks were conducted by members of the Lashkar-i-Taiba, a Pakistan-based terrorist group.

But in previous attacks, the Indian Mujahideen has been quick to claim responsibility. Nitin Pai, a geopolitics fellow at the Chennai-based Takshashila Foundation, wrote on his security affairs blog that the group has "sent out long manifestos and grievance sheets to mediapersons soon after/just before the attacks."

The Mumbai explosions came a week after two alleged Indian Mujahideen operatives were arrested in a suburb of the city. They had been suspected of providing vehicles that were used in a series of blasts that occurred on a single day in July 2008 in the city of Ahmedabad.

 

ssubramanian@thenational.ae