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India: Terror Outfits and Jihad

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Writer: Dr Rupali Jeswal

The transnational links amongst various militant groups and criminal organisations due to geographic overlap of operations requires a great deal of understanding on transnational links between terrorist outfits and criminal organisations. The environment for these overlaps and points of opportunities are Prisons, Cyberspace, Social Network sites, territories and regions with no governance and more corruption, border regions (IDP – Internally Displaced People – also causes a concern), conflict or post-conflict zones, overcrowded mega cities and poverty, last but not the least – hostile governments who sponsor and support terrorist activities to use this MO as a strategic tool for political agenda.


India has the potential to be a true global power and the potential to dominate the global economy. 21st century Asia could be led by India or China on it’s own.

The Achilles’ heel is the internal instability, serious challenges from the armed Naxal rebels, insurgent and separatist groups such as ULFA and other international terrorist groups such as LeT, JeM with it’sfidayeen attacks and proximity to two key terrorist strongholds, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Armed both sides with NW (Nuclear Weapons), Indo-Pakistan border is the most tense area on the planet.
Lashkar-e-Taiba, also known as Army of the Righteous, is one of the largest and most proficient of the militant groups, which poses a significant threat to India. Progressively targeted from outside and with internal unstable security India is one of the world’s most distressed countries.

Kashmir remains the site of the world’s largest and most militarised territorial dispute with portions under the de facto administration of China (Aksai Chin), India (Jammu and Kashmir), and Pakistan (Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas)1


Group profiles of FTOs (Foreign Terrorist Organisations) as of 27th December 2011, from the National Counter Terrorism Center’s website2 are given below:


Group profiles

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), also known as Army of the Righteous, is one of the largest and most proficient of the Kashmir-focused militant groups. LeT formed in the early 1990s as the military wing of Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad, a Pakistan-based Islamic fundamentalist missionary organisation founded in the 1980s to oppose the Soviets in Afghanistan. Since 1993, LeT has conducted numerous attacks against Indian troops and civilian targets in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir state, as well as several high-profile attacks inside India itself, and concern over new LeT attacks in India remains high. The United States and United Nations have designated LeT an international terrorist organisation.2

The Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) is an extremist organisation that splintered from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in the early 2000s and is currently based in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The IJU, which is committed to toppling the government in Uzbekistan, conducted two attacks there in 2004 and one in 2009. The IJU is also active in Afghanistan, where the group operates alongside the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network. The group has had particular success in recruiting German nationals and achieved international notoriety following the 2007 disruption of an IJU plot by the so-called Sauerland Cell to attack various targets in Germany. 2

Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) also known as the Army of Mohammed, Khudamul Islam and Tehrikul-Furqaan among other names – is an extremist group based in Pakistan. It was founded by MasoodAzhar in early 2000 upon his release from prison in India. The group’s aim is to unite Kashmir with Pakistan and to expel foreign troops from Afghanistan. JeM has openly declared war against the United States.2

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is an alliance of militant groups in Pakistan formed in 2007 to unify groups fighting against the Pakistani military in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. TTP leaders also hope to impose a strict interpretation of Qur‘anic instruction throughout Pakistan and to expel Coalition troops from Afghanistan. TTP maintains close ties to senior al-Qa‘ida leaders, including al-Qa‘ida’s former head of operations in Pakistan.2

Haqqani network

“In a press statement issued on September 7, 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent a report to Congress saying that the Haqqani Network meets the statutory criteria of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) for designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO). This action meets the requirements of the Haqqani Network Terrorist Designation Act of 2012 (PL 112-168). Based on that assessment, I notified Congress of my intent to designate the Haqqani Network as an FTO under the INA. I also intend to designate the organisation as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity under Executive Order 13224.”3

While the LeT and JuD are viewed as separate entities, the two groups are likely the same, enabling the JuD to increase its da`wa (missionary) and jihad activities under the LeT framework. The JuD’s leader, Hafiz Saeed, has made this point clear in his written work and public statements. In the magazine Takbeer, Saeed wrote, “Islam propounds both da`wa (proselytise) and jihad. Both are equally important and inseparable. Since our life revolves around Islam, therefore both da`wa and jihad are essential; we cannot prefer one over the other.” The symbiosis of education (da`wa) with jihad forms the basis of LeT/JuD’s political and religious power.4

Harakat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation on October 8, 1997. HuM seeks the annexation of Indian Kashmir and expulsion of Coalition Forces in Afghanistan.

Based in Muzaffarabad, Rawalpindi and several other cities in Pakistan, HuM conducts insurgent and terrorist operations primarily in Kashmir and Afghanistan. HuM trains its militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan.5

According to NCTC (National Counter Terrorism Centre), information available as of March 12, 2012 – reported attacks on India in 2011 were a total of 673.

351 attacks were from Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). From the list of top 15 countries, shadowed with terrorist attacks, India ranked 4th.

The overall number of armed attacks remains high in countries that suffer from civil disorder and insurgency and also creates an atmosphere for acts of terrorism.

According to GTD (Global Terrorism Database) there were 116 incidents caused by LeT, from 1998 to 2010 and majority of the attack type were through bombings and armed assault.

Target type-ranking highest on Private citizens, Police and the Military.

Weapon types in majority of the incidents were – Explosives, Bombs, Dynamite and Firearms.6

Ashley J Tellis, in his testimony before United States House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia said, “LeT today operates in Kashmir, Afghanistan, Chechnya and has been noticed in Iraq. It has fund raising operations in western Europe and in Africa”.7

No longer is LeT a single Kashmir-focused outfit, its international collaboration, coordination and expanded ideology makes it a transnational terrorist organisation and poses a global threat.

In a testimony during a Congressional hearing, Matthew G Olsen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Centre, said: Sustained counter-terrorism pressure has systematically degraded Pakistan-based al-Qa’ida’s leadership and operational capabilities, reducing it to its weakest in 10 years.

However, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network and LeT remain potent threats to American interests in the region, he said “Pakistani and Afghan militant groups – Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) continue to pose a direct threat to US interests and our allies in the region, where these groups probably will remain focused,”8

Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow Foreign Policy at Brookins Institution (Washington based think tank) wrote in “The Daily Beast” that Mumbai attack marked the maturation of LeT from a Punjab-based terror group targeting India exclusively to a member of the global Islamic jihad targeting the enemies of al-Qa’ida: the Crusader West, Zionist Israel and Hindu India.9

On September 2, 2011, the FBI’s Washington Field Office arrested and charged a resident of Woodbridge, Virginia, with providing material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a designated foreign terrorist organisation. According to Federal Crime Defence Lawyer’s blog, “Mr Ahmed received religious training from LeT as a teenager in Pakistan and later attended LeT’s basic training camp.” The course he took was called, “Dora Suffa”, which according to the Deccan Herald,”is where he received instruction in religious dogma and proselytising.” The FBI investigation contends Ahmed, further received additional training at Dora A’ama”a location at which he would listen to lectures, offer prayers, exercise, study guns, fire them and he added is “where I got training from”. “They do the commando training there,” he told the FBI.10

The US State Department lists three Islamist groups active in Kashmir as foreign terrorist organisations: Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. The first group has been listed for years and the other two were added after the December 2001 Indian Parliament attack. All three groups have attracted Pakistani members as well as Afghan and Arab veterans who fought the 1980s Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.11

LeT is not a single jihadist force, under this banner various loosely affiliated groups and individuals come into play with coordination such as JeM, TTP, Al-Q, various Deobandi groups, pro-Al-Q and the Haqqani Network leading to successful terror attacks.


According to the LeT tract “Why We Do Jihad”, “if we declare war against those who have professed Faith, we cannot do war with those who haven’t.” The group seeks gradual reform through dawa. The aim is to bring the people of Pakistan to LeT’s interpretation of Ahl-e-HadithIslam and by doing so, to transform the society in which they live.


Taken together, the Danish plot, the growth of LeT’s footprint in Afghanistan and its target selection there and the German Bakery bombing in India point to several trends that characterised the evolving nature of the threat in the wake of Mumbai. The first was the geographic expansion of its operations and the integration of global jihadi targets with Indian ones. The second is the fungible nature of its networks and military capabilities, which increasingly were used to strike Afghan, Indian and Western targets. The third, highlighted by the Headley case, is the possibility that personal connections might enable individuals or factions to use these networks for freelance operations. As a result, by this time the threat came not only from LeT as an organisation, which was expanding the scope of its jihad, but also from elements within it who could use the group’s capabilities if they believed the leadership was not expanding aggressively enough.12

The Deobandi clergy is the most powerful in Pakistan, partly because it attracts those clerics who oppose the state. The roots of this attraction can be found in the Deobandi domination of militant training camps in Afghanistan and Kashmir (Daily Times [Lahore], June 14, 2009).


JamiatUlema-i-Islam (JUI), which forms part of the current government, also subscribe to the Deobandi world view and are led by clergy who studied at Deobandi seminaries and run many seminaries themselves. Sectarian movements like the anti-Shi’a Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and the anti-AhmadiyyaAlamiMajlis-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwat (AMKN) are affiliated with the Deobandi school of thought. 13

Deobandi groups have overlapping membership with each other and with the Deobandi Islamist political party, Jamiat-e-UlemaIslami (JUI). Thus, a member of JM may also be a member of LeJ (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) or even an office holder at some level with the JUI. Second, Deobandi groups have in recent years begun operating against the Pakistani state following Pakistan‘s participation in the US-led global war on terrorism. JM and LeJ (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) for instance have collaborated with the TTP by providing suicide bombers and logistical support, allowing the TTP to conduct attacks throughout Pakistan, far beyond the TTP‘s territorial remit. Both LeT and several Deobandi militant groups have also been operating in Afghanistan against US, NATO and Afghan forces.


There are several kinds of militant groups operating in and from Pakistan. Drawing from the vast descriptive literature of Pakistan‘s militant group, the militant milieu can be – and should be – meaningfully disaggregated across several dimensions, beginning with their sectarian background (egAhl-e-Hadith, Deoband, JamaatIslami, etc.). They can also be distinguished by their theatres of operation (eg Afghanistan, India, Pakistan) by the makeup of their cadres (eg Arab, Central Asia, Pakistani and ethnic groups thereof) and by their objectives (eg overthrow of the Pakistan government, seize Kashmir, support the Afghan Taliban etc.) among other characteristics.14

In contrast, other Kashmiri groups are operating under the influence of the Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami, such as al-Badr and HM, which tend to be comprised of ethnic Kashmiris and have retained their operational focus upon Kashmir.


The history of the group of militants and preachers who created LeT and the connections with other groups helps us understand how militant groups develop and work together. Markaz al-Dawawal-Irshad (MDI) and its militant wing, LeT, was founded with the help of transnational militants based in Afghanistan and aided by the Pakistani government. This allowed it to become a financially-independent social-service organisation that was able to divert a significant portion of its funding to its militant wing.


The first stirrings of militancy within this network began in 1982, when Zaki-urRehmanLakhvi travelled from Punjab, Pakistan, to Paktia, Afghanistan, to fight with Deobandi militant groups. Lakhvi, who is considered to have been the military commander of what was known as LeT and is awaiting trial for his alleged role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, adheres to an extreme version of the Ahl-e-Hadith (AeH) interpretation of Islam, which is the South Asian version of the Salafist-Wahhabist trend in the Arab world. In the simplest of terms, AeH is more conservative and traditional than the doctrines of most militant groups operating along the Durand Line. Militants there tend to follow an extreme brand of the Deobandi branch of South Asian Sunni Islam, similar to the extreme ideology of al Qaeda’s Salafist jihadists.15

According to SATP (South Asia Terrorism Portal), a terrorism database on the region, LeT’s professed ideology goes beyond merely challenging India’s sovereignty over the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Lashkar’s ‘agenda’, as outlined in a pamphlet titled: “Why are we waging jihad” includes the restoration of Islamic rule over all parts of India.


Anti-Semitism is intrinsic in Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) ideology, along with anti-Western and anti-Israel sentiment. The terrorist group’s agenda, as explained in an LeT pamphlet titled, “Why are we Waging Jihad,” is to eliminate the “existential enemies of Islam,” which are Israel, the US and India. The terrorist group has publicly advocated violence, especially against India and the United States and the destruction of Jews worldwide.16


The transnational links amongst various militant groups and criminal organisations due to geographic overlap of operations requires a great deal of understanding on transnational links between terrorist outfits and criminal organisations and the emerging black hole of terror and threat. The overlaps will create new opportunities from one thought to another, one group to another or a combination of few or more. The environment for these overlaps and points of opportunities are Prisons, Cyberspace, Social Network sites, territories and regions with no governance and more corruption, border regions (IDP – Internally Displaced People – also causes a concern), conflict or post-conflict zones, overcrowded mega cities and poverty, last but not the least – hostile governments who sponsor and support terrorist activities to use this MO as a strategic tool for political agenda.


Risk factors remain high that expanded Islamic movements similar to al- Qa’ida will converge with local insurgents, separatist movements and with technology boom, coordination and collaboration in a jiffy and morphing into decentralised, fluid cells, groups and lone-wolves. Faceless and stateless enemies dispersed everywhere to carry out operations, single acts of terror without requiring a structured training centre as more and more virtual training camps and fund-raising organisation go online with instruction / trainings materials, weapon knowledge, poisonous substances to create recopies of mass terror.

From a psychological and anthropological view, the shape-shifting scenarios makes one wonder about TMT (Terror Management Theory).


According to TMT (Terror Management Theory) all humans are motivated to suppress the potential for innate terror of non-existence due to the human awareness of vulnerability and mortality by investing in cultural belief systems (or worldviews) that instill life with meaning.


Terror Management Theory rests on two main hypotheses. On the one hand, people who are threatened with death and the fear or issues of marginalisation (which is occurring more in today’s time due to globalisation and acculturation) that relates to it are more ready to embrace cultural values and belief systems which gives them a sense of security, identity and camaraderie. They are more likely to cling on to that which affirms and provides meaning to their existence. This is known as the mortality salience hypothesis. On the other hand, studies have also found that people tend to build self-esteem and positive self-image in order to assuage the fear of their own mortality. The latter is known as the anxiety-buffer hypothesis.


Research in Counter Terrorism and Security made me come across a fascinating piece of work and two of the authors of this study, V S Subrahmanian and Aaron Mannes have been very gracious to lend the brief for this column.


Computational analysis of Lashkar-e-Taiba: Research brief

“This is the first paper that collects data and analyses LeT ’sbehaviour in a systematic and structured manner. This process will ultimately allow policy-makers to apply the same kinds of data analytic tools to counterterrorism and other critical national security functions that companies like Google and Amazon already use to advise customers on how to make their next purchase.”

Computational Analysis of Terrorist Groups: Lashkar-e-Taiba (Springer, September 2012) by V S Subrahmanian, Aaron Mannes, Amy Sliva, Jana Shakarian and John Dickerson is the only in-depth analysis of a terrorist group using data mining to learn temporal probabilistic rules about the group’s behaviour. These rules allow decision-makers to both make predictions about Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) behaviour and to identify policies that might reduce the group’s violent activities. It is an important step forward in using computational techniques to augment traditional human analysis.


The computer model, using a dataset of 770 variables, coded monthly over twentyone years, identifies conditions under which terrorists were likely or unlikely to undertake a given action within 1-3 months of certain conditions being true in LeT’s operational environment. One example of a typical rule shows that two months after a month in which LeT was providing political support to other Islamist organisations and not engaged in intra-organisational conflicts, LeT was 91 per cent likely to carry out 1-3 attacks against Indian security installations.


A Policy Computation Algorithm was used to identify those conditions that could be changed through government action which were most likely to reduce the probability of LeT violence.


Overall, traditional security tools such as arrests, raids and killing LeT operatives have limited effectiveness in reducing LeT attacks. The rules did indicate that Pakistani support for LeT was a major factor – and that Pakistani crackdowns can be effective. But policy makers have found it difficult to identify the means to pressure Pakistan to cut its ties to its jihadi proxy. However, the model suggested another approach as well. LeT was less likely to attack during periods of intra-organisational disarray such as splits and internal conflicts. Fostering splits and divisions within terrorist groups is a difficult operation, but has been done before. The strategies for doing so depend on the particular group. In some cases the paranoia of top terrorist leaders was exploited, in other doctrinal differences were exacerbated. At least some of LeT’s past internal disputes revolved around allegations of corruption and nepotism. This is an organisational vulnerability that could be exploited.


  4. Lashkar-i-Tayyiba Remains Committed to Jihad, 2009. Authors Farhana Ali, Mohammad Shehzad.
  6. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2011). Global Terrorism Database [ ]. Retrieved from
  7. “Bad Company–Lashkare-Tayyiba And The Growing Ambition of Islamist Militancy In  Pakistan” Testimony by Ashley J Tellis Senior Associate Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 11, 2010.
  8. Haqqaninetwork,LeT the new potent threats: US Washington, September 20, 2012
  12. National Security Studies Program Policy Paper: Lashkar-e-Taiba, Past Operations and Future Prospects. Author: Stephen Tankel, April 2011
  13. The Deobandi Debate Terrorist Tactics in Afghanistan and Pakistan Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 21, May 28, 2010. By: Tayyab Ali Shah.
  14. C Christine Fair, ― Antecedents and Implications of the November 2008 Lashkar-e-Taiba Attack Upon Mumbai, testimony presented before the House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection on March 11, 2009. RAND Corporation testimony series.
  16. Taiba.htm?Multi_page_sections=sHeading_4

More information about the book can be found at

More information about the Lab for Computational Cultural Dynamics can be found at:

Further Reading:
Andrew G Bostom’s book “Legacy of Jihad” examines the role of institutional Islamic jihad and it’s ultimate regulation of Muslims and non-Muslims to this day.
To better understand the roots and threat of militant Islam, see
Foreign Terrorist Organizations:




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