Pune Terror

The city was inundated with rumours that the notorious don Dawood Ibrahim (67), who is holed up in Karachi, has been poisoned and that he was in a critical condition in a local hospital. There was even intense speculation that he was dead. As major Gaurav Arya said, we would have liked him to be assassinated by ‘Unknown Killers’ rather than dead by poison. These rumors clouded the news that is close to the shore.

December 18, 2023, Pune

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) early morning of Monday, December 18,2023 raided 19 locations across Karnataka, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and New Delhi, and claimed to dismantle the ISIS (Islamic State) Ballari terror module which intended to trigger IED blasts in the coming days. One of those detained is a 19-year-old student from a private university in the Gultekdi area of Pune. From the Pune youth, the NIA team seized mobile phones and electronic devices. Officials alleged he was detained after he was found actively downloading information from a 2,000- member strong Telegram group associated with the terror module.

Such news is becoming regular in Pune which was a sleepy town just about three decades ago. Education hub even prior to independence, the education institutes here are blessed with presence of likes of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Swatantra Veer Savarkar. Pune later became auto manufacturing hub in Pimpri & Chinchwad, the suburbs of Pune city. About two decades ago, it became one of the IT centres with glass panelled offices spread in different corners of the city. For common citizens, it was pensioner’s paradise. Many like us have fond memories of childhood vacations in Pune, cycling through the roads of Pune in winter and climbing hills remembering Chhatrapati’s Shivaji and his general’s valour.

July 19, 2023 Pune

In a major catch, the Pune Police nabbed two persons allegedly linked with a terror group and wanted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The accused duo — with a reward for their capture — were found trying to steal a motorcycle, by a night patrol team of constables Amol Nazan and Pradeep Chavan of the Kothrud Police Station, Pune around 3 a.m.

The police patrol accosted the duo — identified as Yunus Saki and Imran Khan, both from Ratlam city in Madhya Pradesh — when they were trying to flee with a motorcycle. A third person, who was present with them, managed to escape from the spot in the dark, but when the police patrol took them to their residence for a search, even Saki and Khan attempted to flee from there, but were apprehended by Nazan and Chavan.

The police searched their home and seized a laptop, four mobiles and a live fire-round. Holed up in Pune for nearly one-and-half years, Saki and Khan are believed to be members of an extremist group ‘SUFA’, inspired by the IS and were wanted by the NIA for a terror strike conspiracy The group was part of the Pune IS module, and security agencies suspect that they are connected to other modules as well and were planning to launch terror attacks in northern India.

February 13, 2010 Pune

On Saturday February 13, 2010 in the evening at about 7:15, a bomb blast ripped through the city’s popular German Bakery, close to the Osho Ashram and across from the Jewish Chabad House. The news spread across Pune city and there were two kinds of responses – utter shock and panic that the terror has shown its ugly face in the city and secondly wishful disbelief that this is a rumour. Unfortunately, the first response came out to be true. This was first visible manifestation of terror in city of Pune.

More than forty-five people were rushed to the hospital with varying degrees of injury such as burns and fractures. Final count was seventeen dead and 49 wounded. There was an unattended packet which exploded when a waiter tried to open it. It appears a battery operated improvised explosive device was used. The Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attack. David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani−American terrorist who co-plotted the 2008 Mumbai attacks, has been accused of involvement in the project and bombing.

The methodology

The working methodology and teamwork of these terrorists was as if they were running a smoothly multinational company. Recruiting new Jihadis, influencing the minds of the youth and increasing their inclination towards terrorism, providing them shelter, accommodation and making food and training arrangements inside the dense forests. Training in making IED (improvised explosive device) and small arms, during bomb manufacturing. Use of code words in communication, fake email IDs, multiple social media accounts and raising huge amounts of funds…in this way, they run team work in a very well-planned manner.

To prevent anyone from knowing about bomb making techniques and chemical interactions, they have codewords to these chemicals. For example, vinegar was used for sulfuric acid, rose water for acetone and sherbet code for hydrogen peroxide. Easily available thermometer, washing machine timer, 12-watt bulb, 9-watt battery, filter paper, matchstick, speaker wire and soda powder are used to make the IED.

They procure chemicals and other items for making the IED locally in a bid to avoid cross-border suspicion. After every recce and attempts to make potent bombs and then experiments, they would report back to their handlers.

The Pattern

As village grows to towns and towns turn into cities, terror activities expand in city pockets. Areas near cities in isolated places are utilized for training. Ghettos are created in cities (Kondhwa, Mundhwa, Mohammad wadi in Pune, Padhgha near Mumbai etc.) by populating areas by sympathisers (!) who protect and nurture terrorist activities. Such areas become impregnable to police and government authorities. A recent example of such places is Padgha, a small village about 30-40 kilometres from Borivali, Mumbai.

The members of such terror groups are professionally educated – engineers and doctors – from reputed institutes and universities but are highly radicalised. They are highly efficient in working on latest social media and communication equipments and work based on orders and inputs by their Pakistan-based handlers.

Recce of some potential areas like crowded places, Mazar / dargah, routes of VIP political leaders, place close to temples or Jewish community – is carried out for explosions. Terrorist team remains in constant touch with Pakistani handlers for coordination and instructions. And on one Not so fine day, a breaking news flashes on television channels.

Blood is thicker than water, religious teachings are more impactful than scientific temper, Ummah is closer to heart that fellow citizens and caliphate dearer than Bharat… Be watchful of this trend throughout India.

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