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Technologically-advanced Islamist terror groups gain momentum in India. India’s intelligence agencies and state police forces coordinated to bust a hitherto unknown jihadist cell, apparently inspired by the Islamic State, before the group could go on to launch a major terror attack.
A recent blast carried out on the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train spurred the police to launch coordinated searches that have led to the arrest of eight operatives of the group, another member of the group was killed in the exchange of fire. A police press release said the group styled itself as “ISIS Khorasan” and the recoveries included videos and literature glorifying the Islamic State (IS).
According to dnaindia.com, if this information is correct, this is the first terror attack by an IS-inspired group in India though it was propounded that the 2014 Bengaluru church attack was an IS attack. It is not clear yet whether IS handlers coordinated and directed the attacks as has happened in other places, especially in Europe.
That the IED used in the train blast was poorly designed and executed indicates that the police managed to nip a fledgling terror group before it perfected its techniques and learned to design more potent bombs.
The IS has launched signature attacks in Western Europe, Turkey, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and this is the first indication that a group inspired by it has amassed enough firepower and ammunition to launch large-scale terror attacks in India.
Interestingly, many of the suspects arrested are from educated backgrounds, revealing how the IS strategy of reaching out to potential recruits through social media platforms is reaping a dividend. The IS’ effective social media outreach also differentiates it from the other jihadi groups that preceded it. Across the world, a large number of misguided youngsters have left their home countries to travel to the IS bases in Syria and Iraq.
The challenge before Indian intelligence agencies and state police forces is to ensure better coordination and faster information sharing. Though the present group was under surveillance, the train blast appears to have provided the spur for the disparate anti-terrorism units to come together quickly and swoop down on them.
A revival of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre has been under consideration. Equally important is the technological challenge facing intelligence agencies with the advent and popularity of end-to-end encrypted mobile messaging services, which is reportedly being used globally by IS cells to plan and execute terror strikes. The recent success of the local police has been a message to police forces across India to shed their turf wars and come together to build a robust intelligence sharing mechanism, with or without the NCTC.