PUNE BLAST WAS QAEDA'S FIRST INDIAOP.
A NEW al- Qaeda video shows how the world's most dreaded terror organisation could have been behind the German Bakery blast in Pune in February this year. Seventeen people had died in the incident and 60 were injured.
The undated video, which is now in the hands of India's external spy agency Research and Analysis Wing ( RAW), shows Mustafa Abu al- Yazid claiming that al- Qaeda's Ilyas Kashmiri masterminded the German Bakery attack. al- Yazid, who is better known as al- Misri because of his Egyptian roots, was a top al- Qaeda leader and was reportedly killed in a US- led drone attack in Pakistan on May 21 this year.
In the video, al- Yazid urges his terror cohorts to take inspiration from the German Bakery attack and to mount more such attacks against countries that " support anti- Islamic ideologies and provide a safe haven to the enemies of Islam". But the video does not make it clear whether the al- Qaeda took the help of local organisations such as the Indian Mujahideen, which security agencies believe was the prime conspirator in the blast.
The surfacing of this video puts a whole new dimension to the case as it could now be said that terror forces outside of Pakistan are also involved in attacks on India. For example, al- Qaeda founder Osama bin- Laden is a Saudi Arabian by birth while his deputy Ayman al- Zawahiri is an Egyptian as was al- Yazid. Most of al- Qaeda's terror recruits originate from West Asian countries ( primarily Saudi Arabia and Yemen) and from North Africa ( primarily Sudan and Somalia).
Expectedly, the video message has set alarm bells ringing in the Indian security establishment.
According to counter- terrorism experts, al- Yazid was No 3 in the al- Qaeda hierarchy and was at the forefront of cementing ties with other Islamic militant organisations in central Asia and Pakistan. He had earlier claimed credit for the December 2007 assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto during her campaign in Rawalpindi as well as a suicide attack on the Danish embassy in Islamabad in June 2008.
The video has the following message in Arabic: " I appeal to the entire Muslim world, especially the jihadis, to take inspiration from a great deed performed by one of our brothers. A fearless and dare- devil fidayeen amongst us has struck against those who support anti- Islamic ideologies and provide safe haven to the enemies of Islam.
" To teach such people a lesson, one of our fidayeen carried out an attack at the German Bakery in the western part of India where Israelis and Jews used to assemble.
Many Jews were killed in the attack. This incident is a matter of great pride for all of us.
" The attack was carried out under the leadership of the commander of zund- al- fidayeen ( Commando Battalion) in Kashmir, Ilyas Kashmiri. The Pune attack is an act of great bravery and should inspire Muslim faithfuls all over the world." If all that al- Yazid claims in the video is true, then the Pune blast makes it the first al- Qaeda terror operation in India. Until now, only Pakistan- based terror organisations or Pakistan- funded organisations in India and elsewhere were believed to have launched attacks in India. But al- Qaeda's claim widens the terror threat to India to beyond Pakistan and into West Asia.
Indian investigating agencies had believed the Pune blast to be the handiwork of homegrown terrorists.
Almost two months after the blast, the Maharashtra ATS had identified the man who had planted the bomb at the German Bakery. The bomber was in his mid- 20s, around 5 ft 6 inches tall, with a slight frame, fair- complexioned and an oval face.
The ATS sleuths later picked up Abdul Samad, the younger brother of alleged Indian Mujhaideen terrorist Yasin Bhatkal, as his profile matched with the physical description of the bomber seen in the footage.
However, it later turned out that Samad had nothing to do with the blast as he was attending a wedding on that day. The red- faced cops were forced to release him. There has been not much progress in that case.
Therefore, experts said, the reference to Ilyas Kashmiri has serious ramifications. The Lashkare- Tayyeba ( LeT) operative David Coleman Headley, one of the prime accused in the Mumbai terror attack, had conducted several reconnaissance missions of vital installations in India at Kashmiri's behest. " This could alter the course of our counterterrorism strategy," a source said.
Kashmiri heads a special operations group called the 313 Brigade in Pakistan, and is a vital part of al- Qaeda's global operations.
In July this year, the National Investigative Agency had moved an application before a designated NIA court in Delhi requesting it to issue warrants against Kashmiri and six other Pakistani nationals for being part of a larger conspiracy to attack various establishments in India.
The video uncovered by RAW is the second such made by al- Yazid in which he has directly threatened India. In February 2009, he had threatened India with deadly terror attacks if the country attacks Pakistan. " India should know that it will have to pay a heavy price if it attacks Pakistan.
The Mujahideen will sunder your armies into the ground, like they did to the Russians in Afghanistan," he had said.
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