Spike In Terror Alerts Reflects Concern Over Regional Militant Capabilities
Published on June 30, 2017
In recent past weeks, there has been an increase in reported intelligence alerts of potential terror attacks. A latest such alert was on June 20th , when Delhi police officials alleged that there was a possibility of lone-wolf style attacks being planned against ‘International Yoga Day’. Most of the alerts indicate that members of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) are likely to be the perpetrators. However, some others have even alluded to the possibility of the Islamic State (IS) using its activists in the country. Recently, an IS sympathizer was arrested from Hyderabad on June 23; however, the suspect’s linkage to any recent terror warning has not been revealed.
The intelligence inputs can be partly attributed to an increased threat perception during the month of Ramadan, which has been claimed by several Islamist militant groups as a favored period for carrying out attacks. Within the first three weeks of this year’s Ramadan period (which ended on June 25), IS claimed more than 300 attacks in at least 12 countries, according to SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that tracks terrorist groups online. However, more than 80% of these attacks were in Syria and Iraq, where the group is primarily based. Attacks such as those on London bridge, and lone wolf attacks including the Brighton siege in Australia, reflect a new popularity of single use and unsophisticated tactics by militant actors. It is this methodology which the Indian authorities have repeatedly cited in their intelligence advisories, and therefore inferred that in addition to the probability of there being some credible chatter about plotting attacks in India; the primary concern was of a lone wolf attack(s), for which the authorities could do little to prevent.
On April 5, India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh had stated “There is no need for Indians to be worried about IS (penetration) in India. If they radicalize a few youths, we also have counter-radicalization programmes.” However, ground inputs suggest a contrary trend. Until the end of April 2017, a total of 35 IS-linked cases involving an Indian citizen had been identified. In 2016, a total of 75 individuals were identified, and in 2015 it was 35. On March 7, IS reportedly conducted its first ever terror attack in India using recruits radicalized from within the country. Its supporters were allegedly responsible for the bombing of a passenger train in Madhya Pradesh in which 10 people were killed. The authorities claimed to have solved the case by reportedly detaining nine suspects and killing another during an encounter, a short period after the incident.
The heightened tensions in Jammu & Kashmir state works as an additional factor. Due to the ongoing bloodshed in the disputed valley, there is an increased likelihood of militant groups seeking to stage attacks for bringing the conflict even greater international scrutiny. Tensions have only risen with the lynching of a senior policeman outside a mosque in the state’s summer capital, Srinagar. Furthermore, the narrative of the minority community being under threat since the Bharatiya Janata Party rules the center, has also fueled the possibility of groups seeking to exploit the underlying issues. The risk of communal riots instigated by terrorist sympathizers is a very credible threat, especially in light of the recent Ramadan period.
The spate of arrests and the quick response of the authorities in investigating recent terror incidents, highlights the improved capabilities, and although the security agencies are taking a proactive approach to preventing attacks, it is still important for members of the public to remain vigilant towards any suspicious objects or behaviour. The lack of specific inputs from the government as to where attacks will take place only underscores the widespread threat that India faces. Maintain basic security precautions and monitor local events before travelling to new locations.