It has been reported that two claims of responsibility have been received by the investigating authorities in the wake of the explosion outside the Delhi High Court on September 7,2011. Both claims have been made through E-mails sent from cyber cafes. The first E-mail purports to be from the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the second from the Indian Mujahideen (IM). The authenticity of the two e-mails has not so far been established.
The HUJI, which came into existence during the Afgfhan jihad against the Soviet troops in the 1980s, has a presence in Pakistan as well as Bangladesh. The Pakistani branch is referred to by terrorism experts as HUJI and the Bangladesh branch as HUJI (B).
The HUJI, with which Ilyas Ibrahim of the so-called 313 Brigade used to be associated, was active in Jammu & Kashmir, but not in Indian territory outside J&K. HUJI (B) was active in the Indian territory outside J&K, but not in J & K.
The Special Task Force of the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Police, which investigated two explosions at a Hindu temple and a local railway station at Varanasi on March 7, 2006, announced on April 5, 2006, that its investigation had established that the two explosions were carried out by three terrorists of the HUJI (B), with local help provided by one Walilullah, the Imam of a mosque at Phulpur in Allahabad, and five other Indian Muslims.
While Walilullah and the five other Indian Muslims, who had helped the three terrorists from Bangladesh, were arrested, the three terrorists, who actually carried out the explosions, managed to escape to Bangladesh after carrying out the terrorist strikes. Twenty innocent civilians were killed in the two explosions. The UP Police described Walilullah as the Eastern UP Area Commander of HUJI (B).
In a confessional statement, Walilullah reportedly cited the demolition of the Babri Masjid in UP in December 1992 by a Hindu mob and the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in February,2002, as the reasons for the terrorist strikes against the temple and at the railway station. He projected the twin blasts as acts of reprisal terrorism. He gave the names of the three persons, who came from Bangladesh to carry out the explosions, as Bashiruddin alias Bashir,Mustafiz and Zakaria, all Bangladeshi nationals. According to his version, they had studied along with him at the Deoband seminary in UP some years ago and he had been in touch with them since then.
Walilullah had once been arrested by the Allahabad Police in 2001 on suspicion of his links with the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) of Pakistan. He was released after eight months without being prosecuted. Bashiruddin took him to Bangladesh in June 2004 and introduced him to one Maulana Asadullah of HUJI (B), who enrolled him into the organisation and appointed him as its Area Commander for Eastern UP.
The other five Indian Muslims arrested were Syed Shuib and Farhaan (Lucknow), Mohammad Rizwan Siddiqui and Mohammad Saad Ali (Amroha) and Shahid (Allahabad). They were working in a power loom in Bhiwandi near Mumbai. All the arrested Indian Muslims were reported to have confessed that they had visited Pakistan via Bangladesh for training in jihadi terrorism, organised by Maulana Asadullah.
A child was killed in an explosion in Varanasi on December 7, 2010, a day after the anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. An e-mailed message purporting to be from the IM— carrying the December 6 dateline, but sent on December 7— claimed responsibility for the attack. It projected the attack as in reprisal against a court judgement relating to the ownership of the land on which the Babri Masjid stood. The Muslims felt aggrieved by the judgement which they saw as based on Hindu religious beliefs and not on provable evidence. They expressed their determination to have it set aside by a higher court.
Incidents of violence were feared by the UP police on the day the judgement was delivered by the court, but nothing untoward happened. A delayed violent act of reprisal came on December 7, 2010, from unidentified elements claiming to be from the IM. The message purporting to be from the IM expressed the determination of the IM to keep up its fight on the Babri Masjid issue.
The HUJI (B) came into existence in 1992 after the Afghan Mujahideen captured power in Kabul in April,1992, after overthrowing the then Afghan President Najibullah. It was set up by a group of Bangladeshi nationals, who had fought against the forces of the Najibullah Government after having undergone jihadi training in Pakistan. The formation of the HUJI (B) was announced at a press conference in April 1992 by a group of Afghan war veterans. It was projected as a successor to a first Bangladeshi Mujahideen group that had been formed in 1984 by Commander Abdur Rahman, for fighting against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. He later reportedly died in the Afghan War in 1989.
Instructors from the HUJI (B) used to be attached to the training camps of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) near the Tirupura border. It was suspected that the attack on the security guards outside the US Consulate at Kolkata in January, 2002, was orchestrated by HUJI (B), in collaboration with the JEM and the Lashkar-e-Toiba, under the name the Asif Reza Commando Force (ARCF). Aftab Ansari alias Aftab Ahmed alias Farhan Malik, the prime accused in the attack, was in touch not only with the office-bearers of these organisations in Pakistan, but also with Omar Sheikh, who had masterminded the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist.
While there has so far been no evidence of institutional contacts between the HUJI (B ) and the IM, some members of the Muslim community in UP had facilitated the terrorist strikes of HUJI (B) in Varanasi in March 2006. The present contacts of HUJI (B) in India—particularly in UP — need to be re-examined in the light of the nine terrorist strikes since 26/11 which have remained undetected.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd ), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies