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Authorities still trying to identify terrorists.



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RN PM Authorities still trying to identify terrorists

27/11/2008

Authorities still trying to identify terrorists

PM - Thursday, 27 November , 2008 18:26:00

MARK COLVIN: A previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Indian authorities are sceptical.

They claim the attack has the fingerprints of an al-Qaeda related organisation with local links.

Indian security authorities suspect the group may be a front.

They're suggesting that what are behind the attacks are banned groups such as the Students Islamic Movement of India.

Others say they could be an undercover coalition of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed militant organisations.

Edmond Roy reports.

EDMOND ROY: Mumbai is no stranger to terror related violence. Bombings in 1993, 2003 and 2006 claimed hundreds of lives.

And yet this attack has been the most brazen by far in its execution. It was according to Arindam Sen Gupta, the executive editor of The Times of India, a coordinated terrorist attack not just on India but the entire world.

ARINDAM SEN GUPTA: I would imagine that apart from India I think the signal is out to the world, hostages that have been taken are largely foreign nationals, I understand there are 15 British nationals, although I am not completely certain.

There are 40 in all at Oberoi, at the Taj Hotel who have been taken hostage there the board of the Unilever which is holed up there. There is the EU Lawmakers who are holed up there, who have come in for the delegation for the EU India summit.

Hence, I mean the signal is, it's international, it's global. It's an attack on the world to that extent.

EDMOND ROY: Minutes after the first attacks an email from an organisation calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen lobbed into the inboxes of major media outlets.

The Deccan Mujahideen takes its title from the Deccan plateau, that runs the breath of south west India.

While no one may have heard of this new outfit, this localisation of its name appears to follow a pattern.

In September this year, after bomb blasts in Delhi and Ahmedabad, a similar group, calling itself the Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility.

Similarly, last month after explosions in the north eastern state of Assam another organisation calling itself the Islamic Security Force Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility.

Security experts believe these may all be fronts for outfits banned by the Indian government over the past few years.

Others argue they could be al-Qaeda related organisations, such as the Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Toiba or the Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Dr MJ Gohel is the executive director of the Asia Pacific Foundation.

MJ GOHEL: The modus operandi, the fingerprints do clearly point to either al-Qaeda, or to an al-Qaeda linked group.

We saw multiple coordinate attacks. The terrorists picked on very soft targets. Their intention was to create maximum horror and terror and the aim was also to attack India's economy. Now this is something that al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda affiliated groups have done in the past.

Now there could be indigenous elements involved in the attack but as we've discovered since 9/11, in virtually every terrorist attack, there is always a mixture; there are indigenous elements linked to transnational elements and quite often the trail leads all the way back to al-Qaeda or to and affiliated group somewhere in Pakistan.

EDMOND ROY: Others believe this is a home-grown threat that may have been inspired by movements overseas.

Professor Robert Heath is a crisis management expert from the University of South Australia.

ROBERT HEATH: I think the attack is probably as much directed against Indians as it is against the West. But I do think either one of two circumstances happened: either they then, once they made the attack started looking for safety and safety in some minds might mean holding Western hostages because that brings prominence to America and Britain and the governments try and intervene and all those type things.

Or the second part was that they wanted to get a greater public, if you like, exposure of TV and media - and again holding hostages is one way of doing that.

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EDMOND ROY: Now there are hundreds of movements in India, including the Naxalite movement which has been quite prominent in especially the Deccan side and when you hear something like the Deccan Mujahideen, which hasn't been heard before, does that give some cause for reflection that perhaps this is an internal, localised movement?

ROBERT HEATH: Well, I think it is but I think what can happen is that it either gets its inspiration from external, as in how other things have been planned, such as the Madrid bombings or the London bombings. I think also you can even have some external organisation assistance but to me this feels more like, I wouldn't like to say local issue, because that's demeaning to it.

But in a sense we're saying that it's very specific but it's not specific the way I would have thought if it was an attack on the government proper, which would have been obviously public buildings, or an attack on Westerners proper because if they were really wanting to cause extensive Western life, I would have thought the more traditional truck-bomb outside the hotel would work better.

EDMOND ROY: Earlier speaking to Indian television one of the attackers said that he belonged to an Indian Islamist group seeking an end to the persecution of Indian Muslims.

This is a worrying development for India's rulers, because it touches on India's idea of itself as the world's largest secular democracy, capable of including a multitude of peoples and faiths.

India is home to 140 million Muslims and the problem facing its leaders, is to what extent recruits to terrorism are motivated by essentially local grievances or by the ideology of global political Islam.

MARK COLVIN: Edmond Roy.

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