Several members of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorist group have been arrested in the lead up to elections in India.
Suspected IM leader Tehsin Akthar—the alleged architect of the deadly Patna bombing, which targeted Indian prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi last October—is chief among the individuals apprehended. The recent arrest of IM leaders is a success for Indian security agencies and could help raise voters’ confidence in the Indian security forces’ ability to prevent election violence.
An estimated 840 million Indians will go to the polls between April 7 and May 12. This will be the longest election period in Indian history, and Indian police are anticipating an intensified security situation. A number of top IM leaders have been arrested over the past year, including IM co-founder Yasin Bakhtal. After Bakhtal’s arrest last August, Tehsin of Pakistan allegedly took over IM’s India operations, at which point he purportedly planned the Patna bombings, which killed five people, injured several others, and threatened the life of Modi. According to some reports, IM had initially planned to assassinate Modi at his hotel but, due to heightened security, opted for the rally.
Tehsin’s apprehension led to the arrest of four other IM leaders, including explosives maker Zia Ur Rehman, who purportedly has ties to al-Qaeda and is wanted in connection with a number of bombings, including attacks in Mumbai in July 2011 that killed 27.
Abdul Valid and Fahim, IM terrorists from Pakistan who were arrested last week, were reportedly trained at camps in Afghanistan. When arrested, they were in possession of a weapons arsenal large enough to kill an estimated 100 people. They were destined to disrupt upcoming election rallies in a town not far from where Modi frequently campaigns in Uttar Pradesh.
IM ties to Afghanistan and Pakistan are concerning, especially in light of the U.S.’s impending drawdown from Afghanistan. In an op-ed that ran today in the National Interest, Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Lisa Curtis commented:
There also is growing concern about the impact on Indo-Pakistani relations of the international troop drawdown in Afghanistan and whether the Kashmir conflict could re-ignite. A key Kashmiri militant leader, Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group, recently resurfaced in Pakistan to address a large public rally, where he called on suicide attackers to resume jihad against India. The year 2013 also saw an increase in militant infiltration from Pakistani territory into Indian-held Kashmir, according to Indian officials.
While the recent arrests are a victory for Indian security agencies ahead of the polls, they are also a reminder that a hasty U.S. exit from Afghanistan will likely have negative implications for other countries in the region battling the terrorist scourge.