Western agencies work on Delhi Games security

By Rahul Bedi

NEW DELHI - Several Western security agencies have been working closely with India to try to thwart militant attacks on the Commonwealth Games from Pakistan-based Islamist groups.

In the past year intelligence officials from Australia, the United States, Britain and other European countries have been liaising with their Indian counterparts to prevent a strike that would stoke tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours, who have fought three wars.

This, in turn, could damage Pakistani efforts in fighting Islamist militants in the federally administered tribal regions adjoining Afghanistan who pose a grave threat to US and Nato forces operating in the wartorn country.

CIA chief Leon Panetta was in New Delhi last week after visiting Islamabad, where he reportedly called for "co-operation" from his Pakistani counterparts in preventing Islamist groups from targeting the Games with a strike similar to the November 2008 attack on Mumbai which killed 166 people.

Panetta is believed to have asked Islamabad to rein in the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group, which was behind the Mumbai attack.

This year the 313 Brigade, an operational arm of al Qaeda, threatened to wreak havoc across India during the Games unless the Indian Army pulled out of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir province.

In a message to Asia Times Online in February - soon after the bombing of a popular eatery by a local Islamist group in India's western city of Pune in which 15 people, including some foreigners, died - 313 Brigade head Ilyas Kashmiri warned the international community not to send teams to the Commonwealth Games.

"Nor should their people visit India - if they do, they will be responsible for the consequences," he said, reiterating his demand for an independent Muslim majority Kashmir state. More than 70,000 people have died in the Islamic insurgency raging there since 1989.

B. Raman, a former senior intelligence officer turned analyst, said the 313 Brigade comprised two distinct jihadi terrorist organisations associated with al Qaeda.

One was Kashmir-centric and emerged in 1999 as a member of the United Jihad Council, committed to freeing the disputed principality as part of the wider aim of creating an Islamic caliphate stretching up to and including the Central Asian Republics with Pakistan as its fulcrum.

India is the principal enemy of this group, based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and headed by Ilyas Kashmiri, who, according to reports in the Pakistani media, was recently released by the authorities.

He is believed to have recently shifted his group's operational base to Waziristan along the Afghan frontier from where al Qaeda and Taleban cadres largely operate.

- NZ Herald

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