Issue :   
May 2020 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:May' 2020


Terror outfits regrouping

Rajeev Sharma

Terror outfits grow, change, evolve and mutate. A similar mutation is noticeable now with respect to two of the most dreaded terrorist organizations: Al Qaeda and Islamic State. In these Coronavirus times, the two are trying to write a new template. Al Qaeda and Islamic State are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic that has gripped 210 countries and territories of the world to rebuild themselves. As the governments across the world are busy fighting a more immediate, deadlier and invisible enemy, these two terror outfits are rearing their heads in various parts of the world and regrouping and recharging. India has quite a task on its hands as among the many countries where these two outfits have become active, three countries are in India's immediate neighbourhood: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Maldives. In the first two ( Afghanistan and Pakistan ) Al Qaida has become active while in the third (Maldives) the Islamic State has surfaced and even made a maiden claim for its attack. Al Qaeda's activities in Af-Pak region were put into fifth gear from the beginning of March when the coronavirus had started expanding throughout the world after China declared a complete lockdown of its Wuhan city from where the virus had emanated sometime in December 2019. Thabat, an Al Qaeda-affiliated media outfit, published infographics and images highlighting the terrorist outfits' operations worldwide. The publicity carpet bombing made it clear that the prime focus countries of the Al Qaeda's new push were: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Somalia, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. India may ignore other countries but not Afghanistan and Pakistan. The biggest thrust area of Al Qaeda is Afghanistan, where according to Thabat, the outfit conducted 343 operations in which 520 people were killed over 200 injured, destroyed 35 armoured vehicles, apart from seizing seven such vehicles, and detonated two car bombs. These figures are from March 1 to March 2, according to Thabat, which gives one more timeline of March 26-April 2 wherein the operations picked up steam – 88 operations, 200 killed, over 50 injured and eight car bombs detonated.
On 16 April, 2020, Al Naba, the weekly newsletter of Islamic State, claimed responsibility for Islamic State's first ever attack in Maldives. This was the first time ever when Islamic State had openly claimed responsibility for its attack in Maldives, thus conveying its presence in India's backyard. It was not the outfit's first operation in the archipelago. Earlier this year, three alleged Islamic State operatives were arrested after stabbing two Chinese nationals and one Australian citizen in Hulhumale island of Maldives. Though a local cell had acknowledged claim of this attack on behalf of IS, that claim was never officially corroborated by IS. Al Qaeda posing a threat to India is a bogey that has been raised several times in past few years but every time it proved to be a crying wolf experience. But this time, the geopolitical scenario in the Af-Pak region is starkly different with American- NATO forces drawdown from Afghanistan a distinct reality after the US-Taliban pact. If Al Qaeda is able to cement its position in

One must not forget that India's worst period in terms of cross-border terrorism was from 1996 to 2001 when Taliban was ruling Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, we know what great harm it can unleash on India by ganging up with the Taliban and Pakistan's secret service Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). One must not forget that India's worst period in terms of cross-border terrorism was from 1996 to 2001 when Taliban was ruling Afghanistan.
Similarly, the Islamic State developing its base in Maldives, a small Indian Ocean archipelago with a population of just four lakh, can cause a big headache to India, considering Maldives' geographical proximity with Indian southern states, particularly Kerala.

(The author is a strategic analyst and columnist)