Sunday, May 16, 2010




In a controversial decision, which should be of concern to India’s national security managers, President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives has accepted a request from the US Government to re-settle in Maldivian territory two terrorism suspects from the Guantanamo Bay military detention centre in Cuba. Talks in this regard have been going on with the US authorities since December last.

2.Under a policy initiated by the administration of President Barack Obama after it assumed office in January,2009, it is pledged to close down the military detention centre after transferring to normal judicial custody for trial in US territory according to the normal laws of the land those against whom there is evidence to justify a trial and transferring others against whom there is no such evidence either to the countries to which they belonged before they were arrested post-9/11 or to other countries which are prepared to accept them.

3. The implementation of this policy has slowed down due to the following reasons:

* Opposition to bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US, to New York for trial.
* Some of the suspects from Afghanistan and Yemen, who were released and re-settled in their country because there was no evidence against them to warrant a trial, took to terrorism after their release due to their anger against their alleged ill-treatment in the detention centre by the US. There is a danger that many others, who were arrested by the US authorities on mere suspicion without any evidence of their involvement in terrorism might similarly take to terrorism after their release due to their anger against the US. Yemenis, Pakistanis and Afghans constitute a bulk of such suspects in the detention centre.
* Difficulty in finding countries which would accept those whom the US did not want to send to their home country such as the Uighur suspects. China has been demanding that the Uighurs should be handed over to it for trial. Human rights organizations have been opposing this due to fears that they might be sentenced to death and executed by the Chinese authorities. While willing host- countries have been found to re-settle some of the Uighurs, others are without a willing host-country and hence continue to be at Guantanamo Bay.

4. Neither the Maldives nor the US have revealed the nationalities of the two suspects, who are to be transferred to the Maldives for re-settlement from Guantanamo Bay. Among the suspects detained at the centre in Cuba was a Maldivian national Ibrahim Fauzee who was picked up in Karachi in May 2002 and transferred to the Guantanamo Bay detention centre because he was living with an Al Qaeda suspect. He contended that he was not aware that the person with whom he was staying in Karachi had links with Al Qaeda. No evidence of involvement in terrorism could be found against him and he was reportedly released in 2005. His present whereabouts are not known. Nor is it known whether he is one of the two suspects to be accepted by the Maldives.

5. Since the Government of President Nasheed has been developing close relations with China, it is doubtful whether he would accept Uighurs since that could make Beijing unhappy. India should have legitimate cause for worry if under US pressure and offer of money, the Maldivian Government re-settles in its territory Pakistani or Afghan or Yemeni suspects. There is a strong possibility that these suspects, in their anger against the US, would take to terrorism from Maldivian territory where the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) has already set up a presence. The LET has been recruiting Maldivian nationals and allegedly training them in its camps in Pakistan and giving them exposure to the jihad in the Af-Pak region.

6. The Maldives, which has many uninhabited islands, could attract Pakistani and Al Qaeda terrorists interested in sea-borne terrorist attacks similar to Mumbai 26/11. This would seriously add to India’s counter-terrorism concerns. It is doubtful whether the National Security Service (NSS) of the Maldives would be able to keep these suspects under effective surveillance and prevent them from taking to reprisal terrorism. The presence of these suspects in Maldivian territory would pose a threat not only to India and Sri Lanka, but also to the internal security of the Maldives itself.

7. If the two suspects being accepted by the Maldives are local nationals, India has no grounds for protesting. But if they are non-Maldivians, India has every reason to protest and request the Male Government not to accept them.

8. It is not clear whether the Maldivian Government kept India in the picture about its talks with the US on these suspects. If it had, India should have immediately advised it against accepting them. If it had not, it is a matter for surprise that President Nasheed kept India in the dark about a matter which could affect India’s national security.

9. The opposition members in the Maldives have strongly criticized the decision of President Nasheed on national security grounds. The National Security Committee of the Parliament is to discuss the matter on May 19. ( 17-5-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently , Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )




Is a copy-cat act of terrorism similar to the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai possible in Indonesia? That is a question that needs examination following the disclosures made by the Indonesian authorities about the intentions of a recently neutralised group of terrorists close to Al Qaeda and based in Aceh to organize such strikes in August,2010.

2. This group with an estimated strength of about 80 and led by Dulmatin, formerly of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), believed in targeted killings through hand-held weapons of non-Muslim foreigners and Muslims declared apostates for collaborating with non-Muslims to achieve an Islamic rule in Indonesia and other areas with a Muslim majority instead of indulging in indiscriminate killings of non-Muslims and Muslims alike with explosives like the JI and its splinter group headed by Noordin Top were doing. The sleeper cells of this new group were detected by the Indonesian authorities in February last and in operations lasting over three months, the Indonesian authorities have killed 13 members of the group including Dulmatin and arrested 58 others.

3. On the basis of the interrogation of the arrested persons, the Indonesian Police announced on May 14,2010, that they had foiled a plot by them to kill President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and foreigners in an attack during the independence day celebration on August 17, 2010. Bambang Hendarso Danuri, the national police chief, told a press conference: "They planned to target the Indonesian President (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono), state officials and foreign guests attending the ceremony.” He said that the planned attack was inspired by the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai carried out by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) of Pakistan. He added: “They planned to launch a series of assassinations in Java and Jakarta with their specific target foreigners, especially Americans, and the Indonesian President." They also planned to lay siege to hotels, "copying what had occurred in Mumbai." If the attack had succeeded, the militants would have "declared Indonesia as an Islamic state". According to the police chief, one of the arrested suspects was to collect firearms and a grenade launcher from an Islamist stronghold on Mindano, the main island in the southern Philippines, to be used in the planned attack.

4. While the splinter group from the JI led by Dulmatin might have wanted to emulate the LET and organize multi-target commando style swarm attacks with a mix of modus operandi involving the use of hand-held weapons and explosives, it is doubtful whether it had the capability to organize such attacks without proper training and the required weapons. The LET succeeded because it had a well-trained group at its disposal and enjoyed the sponsorship and training assistance of serving and retired officers of Pakistan’s Army and Inter-Services Intelligence.

5. While it is easy for a terrorist group to organize indiscriminate killings of civilians with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Commando-style swarm attacks require proper training similar to the training given to the special forces of the Army. They require not only suitable weapons, but also modern communication sets to facilitate co-ordinated attacks.

6. There is no evidence to show that the Dulmatin group had the required capability, weaponry and other equipment. Moreover, whereas many members of the pre-2004 vintage of the JI had the benefit of training and jihadi inoculation in the Af-Pak region, there is no reason to believe that the post-2004 crop of South-East Asian, including Indonesian, jihadis---whether belonging to the JI or other groups---- have had similar training and jihadi inoculation outside the S-E-Asian region----either in the Af-Pak area or in Yemen.

7. The Dulmatin group was essentially a collection of indigenous elements, indigenously motivated, trained and armed with no benefit of sponsorship and assistance of the intelligence agency of any other country----either in the region or outside. While the security forces of the region should guard themselves against the dangers of 26/11 style terrorist attacks, the possibility of such attacks is still low to medium. ( 16-5-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )