Foiled Delhi blast: Homegrown jihadis Lashkar’s latest weapon

Since early Nineties, Lashkar has been pushing terrorists into India from jihad launch pads in Pakistan. Earlier, its focus was Kashmir. Later, it became the arm of Islamabad’s state-sponsored terrorism. From Red Fort attack in 2000 and Parliament strike in 2001 to Mumbai attacks in 2008, all bore the imprint of Lashkar-e-Taiba. But there’s been a strategic shift in Lashkar’s tactics after 26/11 – when it sent 10 terrorists to attack India’s financial capital. The outfit has successfully nurtured indigenous jihadis and is sending solitary bombers on terror missions after training in Pakistan. And this has sent alarm bells ringing in the country’s security establishment.

The arrest of two Kashmiri youths, Ahtesham and Shafaqat, who were giving shape to the bloody strike on Wednesday, has confirmed the new trend. Senior officials said Lashkar has lured educated youths from Kashmir and north India into its fold. Though they are sent to Pakistan for training, they are not sent in batches to unleash mayhem. They are dispatched in ones and twos after specific training in hi-tech equipment and bomb-making.

During questioning, Ahtesham, a graduate, told police that after his training in Muzzafarabad from December 2011 to January 2012, he entered India. He went to his mother’s house at Giridih in Jharkhand and met few contacts there. Later, he came to Delhi with Shafaqat and rented an accommodation in Tughlaqabad area in south-east Delhi.

“He had with him all ingredients for making a powerful Improvised Explosive Device (IED). He was also carrying detonators and two memory sticks, including the one in which he is being taught to make a bomb. He used this video to construct the explosive. It was our luck that we arrested him hours before the blast. We have information about the twin blasts at Chandni Chowk in Delhi and Srinagar. Lashkar also had plans to carry more attacks in Delhi’s markets before Holi,” a police officer said.

Earlier, Lashkar took help of sleeper cells for logistical support. “But, Ahtesham did everything on his own. This ensured that only the attacker knew about the mission,” said the official. Intelligence agencies had busted several Lashkar modules in the past and this may have triggered a strategy change.

Ahtesham, who was reporting to Lashkar commander in Kashmir, Abu Hamza, had joined the organization recently. Officials say he may not have been involved in earlier blasts.

Sleuths are also trying to find out why Hurriyat leader SAS Geelani had referred Ahtesham’s name for a visa. His name was given to a top ISI leader in Pakistan who got it cleared. Investigators are also trying to find out the number of men recently recruited by Lashkar from different states for training in Pakistan. Intelligence Bureau claims Lashkar is planning a big strike soon.

Headed by Hafiz Saeed, Lashkar is one of the most notorious terrorist outfits which has carried out bloody attacks.