Message from terror group: Was Bengaluru blast a dummy run for a bigger attack?
Improvised explosive device, Coconut Grove, Barack Obama, US, Republic Day, Karnataka Police, Simi, Mehdi Masroor Biswas, Islamic State, Counter terrorism
New Delhi: Was the bomb explosion outside the Coconut Grove restaurant on Church Street, Bengaluru, on Sunday a trial run for bigger strikes?
While the Bengaluru police and investigation agencies are on a multi-level probe to find the cause of attack and the men behind it, intelligence sources and experts are of the opinion that the blast could have been a bid to check the alertness of security forces. Also, it could be a message from the terror groups that they still retain the capacity to strike at any time. According to forensic experts, the blast was carried out using an improvised explosive device (IED).
"There’s a strong possibility that it was a trial run to check the alertness of police and intelligence agencies, and how much time do they take to react to a situation. The location where the low-intensity blast took place, and the modus operandi shows that the incident could have been deadlier had the operators wanted to do so," said counter-terrorism analyst Anil Kamboj. A Karnataka police source added: "This could have been a dummy run but nothing can be said right now."
The agencies investigating the case are looking into another angle related to forthcoming visit of the US President Barack Obama on Republic Day.
"There’re three factors that need to be considered. First, the New Year celebration; second, Barack Obama’s visit; and third, the Republic Day function. This could be a message from terror groups and Pakistan that there will be disturbances in India ahead of the US presidents’s visit,” said Kamboj.
Strategic analyst and former military secretary, Lt Gen (retd) SA Hasnain agrees. "Ahead of Obama’s India visit, the Pakistan-based terror groups want to create high impact and send a message across South Asia about their existence and relevance. Through this blast, they would like to communicate that they have the capacity to do whatever and wherever they want to. It’s possible such terror outfits would strike again before 26 January," Hasnain said.
The site of the blast on Church Road is the place where citizens park their vehicles. As the blast was of low-intensity, the role of a lone wolf like in Sydney recently can't be ruled out. "The IED used here for explosion was of low intensity. We’re looking into all aspects of the blast," said Bengaluru Police chief MN Reddi.
"As we term it in military, this blast could be a recce by a terror outfit, but it could also be an act of a lone wolf. Because, a militant group instead of undertaking a low-intensity blast, usually won’t leave an opportunity to go for a high impact one and cause maximum damage," said Hasnain.
While, the Karnataka Police suspects the involvement of the activists of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi), the attack is also seen as a retaliation to the recent arrest of Bengaluru-based executive Mehdi Masroor Biswas allegedly for operating the Twitter handle of the global terror outfit Islamic State (IS).
"The investigation team has procured CCTV footage and identified a few faces. The role of those five SIMI operatives, who fled the Khandwa prison in Madhya Pradesh on 1 October 2013, can’t be ruled out," the police source said.
The cyber crime cell is simultaneously looking into the arrest of Mehdi Biswas. According to Central intelligence sources, two alerts were communicated to the Karnataka government – one after the arrest of Biswas and the other on sleeper cell activities of Simi in the state. The state government has been quick to claim that there had been no failure in intelligence.
Be it the killings in the Red Corridor by the Maoists such as the killing of 14 people on 1 December in Sukma, Chhattisgarh, or those by Bodo militants in Assam or yesterday’s bomb blast, terror-strikes are continuing from one corner of the country to the other despite intelligence inputs.
"There’s still no improvement in our internal intelligence and lacks inter-agency coordination. The state governments have to beef up their intelligence system. If such condition continues, more terror attacks are likely to take place. One thing should be clear, India’s capital Delhi, commercial capital Mumbai, IT capital Bengaluru or religious destinations like Varanasi or Ayodhya are on terror radar. The government has to focus on these areas as there are terror threats before 26 January," remarked Prakash Singh, former director general Border Security Force and an expert on counter-terrorism.
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