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Gujarat Lashkar conspiracy was infiltrated by Intelligence mole

Praveen Swami

Friday 25 June 2004, by SWAMI*Praveen

AHMEDABAD, JUNE 25. Claims by the Gujarat Police that four Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists killed in an encounter last week intended to execute an attack on the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, may have been overblown. An investigation by The Hindu has found that the group was indeed engaged in reconnaissance for a suicide-squad attack on Hindu fundamentalist leaders - but the mission was monitored by intelligence agencies at each stage and infiltrated from its outset.

Last week’s encounter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, along with a separate encounter in Mumbai which claimed the lives of alleged Lashkar operatives, Adnan Kirmani and Anwar Illahi, was the outcome of a four-month-long covert operation by the Intelligence Bureau. The operation was sparked by a letter discovered on the person of the Lashkar commander, Ehsan Illahi, who was eliminated along with six other terrorists in a shootout at Andarwali Dhoke in Arai, in the border district of Poonch, on February 20 last.

Authored by Haji Sadiq Ahmad, a Poonch resident held in the Ahmedabad Central Jail for his role in a related 2003 terrorism-crime, the letter provided the Intelligence Bureau considerable insight into the Lashkar’s pan-India apparatus. In the light-blue inland letter, written in Urdu, Mr. Sadiq Ahmad asked for Rs. 2 lakhs "to get ourselves freed from here." He proceeded to name suspected Intelligence Bureau sources in Poonch, and asked Ehsan Illahi for his intercession to help four Lashkar recruits from Hyderabad to escape a police dragnet.

Most important of all, though, Mr. Sadiq Ahmad’s letter mentioned the name of a key member of the Lashkar’s support network in Gujarat - a lawyer. It turned out he was peripherally involved in transporting six Ahmedabad men to Poonch for training with the Lashkar in 2003. One of the six, Munir Ahmad, died in an encounter while the others made their way across the Line of Control. A Poonch resident who operated a transport business in Gujarat, Latif Khan, was subsequently held for his role in the affair.

It turned out that the lawyer’s elderly mother had passed on information, during questioning, to the Ahmedabad Crime Branch on the group of six. Mr. Sadiq Ahmad’s letter made it clear that the Lashkar knew of this betrayal. It is most likely that the Ahmedabad police told the lawyer that the score would be settled. After some persuasion, he turned and began cooperating with the intelligence agency. The Intelligence Bureau’s Ahmedabad station now took charge of their new-found mole, and began using him to lure Lashkar cadre to Gujarat.

In essence, the operation was simple. The lawyer was instructed to tell Javed Sheikh, a Pune resident who was among those killed on June 16, that the infrastructure was in place to execute an attack on Mr. Modi. Much of their subsequent dealing was conducted through Ishrat Jehan Raza, a Mumbai college student whose killing sparked off furious protests. Police officials in Ahmedabad now have in their possession records of several calls she had made to Javed from Tavakkal Communications, a public telephone centre in Mumbra, where she resided.

By early May, Javed had requisitioned two suicide-squad members to launch the actual attack. The Border Security Force’s in-house intelligence wing, the General Branch, picked up signs of the movement in mid-May. Its signals intelligence staff intercepted coded wireless communications asking two Lashkar cadre to report to a handler in Udhampur, near Jammu, and then proceed to their final destinations. New Delhi was referred to as Rajdhani, and the final destination, Ahmedabad, as Manzil.

Informed official sources say that both suicide-squad volunteers had served upwards of a year in Jammu and Kashmir. Jishan Johar, a resident of Gujaranwala in Pakistan, had operated in the Bandipora area while Amjadali Rana, who hailed from Sargodha, worked with a Lashkar unit in the Reasi area. Rana also held fake identification papers issued by an executive magistrate from the mountain town of Mahore. Like the Lashkar operatives who carried out the earlier attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar, the terrorists probably hoped to reach Ahmedabad just days or hours before the intended assault.

In this case, however, there was no target: just a police ambush.

See online : The Hindu


in The Hindu, June 25, 2004.

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