Hijacker Jacked, Tiger Caged, Nagas Negotiated

Plenty of action on India’s counter-terrorist front today, offering an insight into just how diverse and complex are the security challenges the country faces.

In Indo-Pakistan jihad nexus news, it appears the Bangladesh secret service, the Rapid Action Brigade, have nabbed a key figure behind the hijacking of flight IC-814 on Christmas Eve 1999. The plane was hijacked by five Pakistanis who flew it to Kandahar in Afghanistan and demanded that India release 3 Islamist militants, which they duly did. The whole incident was a disaster for India, with one passenger being killed, the hijackers all getting away, and the militants they released going on to become big name horror-shows in the terrorist world. Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, already famous for kidnapping the daughter of the Indian home minister in 1989, went back to Kashmir to use his newly minted status to recruit jihadists. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was later linked to the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl.  And Maulana Masood Azhar went on to found Jaish-e-Mohammad, one of the groups blamed for the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of all-out war. If ever evidence was needed for the not-dealing-with-terrorists rule, then this incident was surely it.

In northeast insurgency news, the prime minister himself has been meeting with Naga rebels to see if they can find some compromise between full autonomy and increased regional powers. After 50 years, you would think the government had made its point that national borders are non-negotiable, but when fights last this long, they tend to have a momentum of their own. Nonetheless, the involvement of the prime minister himself suggests these talks are pretty serious and the rebels at an advanced stage towards chucking in the violence.

And over in good ol’ Blighty, the cops have tracked down Tiger Hanif, who has been on the run for some 17 years for his part in a bomb attack in Gujarat during the horrible sectarian riots that were going on there in 1993. His life had apparently quietened down a bit since then, as the police found him working in a grocery shop.

All pretty good news for the Indians for once. Co-operation not just from militants in Nagaland, but also from their old allies in the UK and most promisingly, continued assistance from their new friends in Bangladesh. It has been a good year for relations with Dhaka, who helped capture top ULFA insurgents and signed a bunch of co-operation deals in January. I’m sure Delhi wishes that all news days were like this.


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