Local Jihadi network marks 'a whole new challenge'

Nov. 27, 2008
brenda gazzar , THE JERUSALEM POST 
The little-known group that claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks 
across Mumbai, India Wednesday appears to be a jihadi "al-Qaida-like" group 
that is homegrown, a counter-terrorism expert told The Jerusalem Post on 

The name of the group, the Deccan Mujahideen, indicates it is signaling that it 
is indigenous, since the Deccan Valley is a vast plateau in central India 
behind Mumbai, said Greg Barton, an Australian-based professor and expert on 
counter-terrorism and politics of the Muslim world. 

"This may well be the beginning of a new era in India," Barton said in a 
telephone interview on Thursday. "India has a lot of experience in dealing with 
attacks by separatist groups, Maoists, Marxist groups, Hindu fundamentalists 
and Islamist extremist groups, but it hasn't acknowledged dealing with a Jihadi 
homegrown network and that appears to be happening now. If that's confirmed, 
this is a whole new level of challenge." 

Indian authorities had long claimed that India did not have a problem with 
homegrown militias, only with radical Jihad Islamists that come from Pakistan, 
Bangladesh or elsewhere, he said. India is widely believed to have the second 
largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia. 

While the name Deccan Mujahideen has not been used before, a group called the 
"India Mujahideen" has been involved in terrorist attacks against Indian 
nationals earlier this year. The term mujahideen means fighters in Arabic and 
was usually associated with Islamic groups who see themselves as freedom 
fighters or holy warriors, Barton said. 

"It seems quite likely that [Deccan Mujahideen] is either connected with that 
group or it is the same group, but we won't know for sure until after the 
interrogations" of the surviving suspects, he said. 

In addition, the nature of the attacks was "brazen and skillful," indicating 
that some very experienced fighters were involved, he said. 

It is thus likely that the perpetrators had experience fighting in the 
mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Al-Qaida was born 
and maintains a stronghold. It was also fairly easy and cheap to travel between 
India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said. 

In addition, the terrorists singled out British and American citizens, which 
brings to mind the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - also a cause of al-Qaida. 

"It doesn't mean that it is al-Qaida, or that it is linked to al-Qaida but it 
shares that ideology, or 'al-Qadaisms,' as some people put it," Barton said. 

"It may be a source of inspiration or assistance; there may be some rivalry 
with them. But there seems to be some sort of parallel with al-Qaida activity," 
Barton added. 

A British security official told the AP that, though it is too early to know 
for sure, the attack doesn't look to have been directed by al-Qaida's core 
leadership. But he said the fact Westerners had been singled out suggested it 
was inspired by Islamic extremist ideology. 

Westerners in India's financial center were targeted in the spectacular attack 
comprised of multiple, simultaneous assaults - a signature of past al-Qaida 
actions including the September 11 attacks. But the Indian attack was carried 
out by gunmen and not the suicide bombers frequently employed by al-Qaida and 
its affiliates. 

AP contributed to this report.

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com 
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