On May 13, 2008, hundreds of innocent Indian civilians ran through the streets of Jaipur to hide from nine bomb blasts, which killed sixty-three and injured at least 216. These people were targeted for only one reason: They were Indians of the Hindu faith. Similarly, this February, the same group responsible for the Jaipur blasts detonated two more bombs in Hyderabad, India, killing seventeen and injuring 119.
Westerners tend to instinctively attribute any terrorist activity to Middle Eastern groups such as Al-Qaeda or Hezbollah. Yet, the attacks originated from a much lesser known organization: the Indian Mujahideen.
While the Indian Mujahideen, an Islamic militant group, has gained some recognition in India, the United States, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, it remains relatively unknown worldwide. The word “Mujahideen” itself refers to guerrilla soldiers who fight against non-Islamic forces; the Indian Mujahideen intends to live up to its name. The group aims to create an “Islamic Caliphate” across South Asia and has declared that it will raise the “illustrious banner of the Jihad” against the “filthy, shameless, and foul” Hindus, who represent the majority faith in India.
Two months ago, Yasin Bhatkal, co-founder of the Indian Mujahideen, was arrested on the Indo-Nepal border after being tracked for six months by the Indian Intelligence Bureau. Yet his capture did little to stem the group’s spread. The Times of India reported that the group had begun to branch out into Pakistan and Afghanistan and continued to recruit new youth from the surrounding Indian regions. Perhaps even more shocking was Bhatkal’s admittance that the group has been involved in ten terror attacks since 2007 and currently operates under the Pakistani intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The Pakistani ISI has been known for its support for the Taliban during Afghanistan’s civil war and continues to be accused of ties to terrorist organizations in neighboring regions. According to Yasin Bhatkal, several of his co-operatives in the ISI, including brothers Riyaz and Iqbal, have been providing active guidance and support in the Indian Mujahideen’s mission to create homegrown terror in India. Indian intelligence agencies suspect that the Indian Mujahideen may also be a front for other terrorist organizations, including the Students Islamic Movement of India. If it acts this way, they theorize, the Mujahideen may help to dissolve blame for terrorist ties from the Pakistani government. However, Pakistan continues to deny its role in any terror operations in India, causing tensions between the two countries to further escalate.
Neighboring country Nepal has been a key home base for the Indian Mujahideen’s operations. Yasin Bhatkal stay in Nepal for the past few years allowed him to plan and execute attacks outside of mainland India. On October 28, 2013, suspected Indian Mujahideen member Afzal Usmani was caught en route to Nepal as he attempted to escape arrest for his involvement in a 2008 terrorist attack in Gujarat that killed fifty-seven and injured around two hundred. It is unclear whether the Nepalese government itself supports such terrorist groups or has undergone measures to aid the Indian government in stopping them.
Although groups like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have been more widely covered by mainstream media, countries must develop a stronger focus on groups outside of the Middle East such as the Indian Mujahideen to prevent further fatalities.
While Americans may feel as if they have finally achieved significant victories in the “War on Terror,” the one clear result of the war has been an ever-growing number of human casualties (in addition to an increasingly negative global perception of the United States and its use of military force). The Indian Mujahideen show that the world has not yet come close to solving the problem of global terrorism as the effects of these terrorist groups continue to be felt worldwide.
The war in Afghanistan alone has killed around thirty-three thousand soldiers from around the world and caused tens of thousands of civilian casualties, while in western countries, racial profiling of those of Islamic faith only continues to be on the rise. To make the strides against global terror that Western policymakers desire, officials need to confront all groups whose actions lead to the loss of more innocent lives. Terrorism from groups like the Indian Mujahideen continues to plague many parts of the world, and addressing these more local groups is as instrumental as focusing on large terror networks.