Abdul Subhan Qureshi’s arrest shows threat of SIMI revival can’t be taken lightly

Livemint | Jan 28, 2018

Gurmeet Kanwal, one of India's foremost military analysts, has been thinking and writing about India's nuclear policy for over two decades. There is considerable concern in India, obviously, about Pakistan's TNWs, with some opinions even suggesting that India should develop its own TNWs. Kanwal vehemently opposes this, in my opinion, correctly.

Ever since a series of five synchronized blasts ripped through the national capital on 13 September 2008, the Delhi Police’s special cell and intelligence agencies have been trying to track down the mastermind.

On 22 January, police zeroed in on Abdul Subhan Qureshi, who for the last decade had been working to revive the defunct SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India)-Indian Mujahideen.

Even though Qureshi failed in his task, experts said the threat of a resurgent SIMI cannot be taken lightly, given the group’s affiliations.

“These groups have their linkages to LeT (Lashkar-e-Toiba) and JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammad), not just by way of intelligence-sharing but through other underground channels as well as funding networks. The funding for these groups, including SIMI, comes from Wahhabi (orthodox Muslim sect) organizations abroad,” said Gurmeet Kanwal, distinguished fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, a thinktank.

Qureshi is also a suspect in the serial blasts in Gujarat in 2008, which killed 56 people. Dubbed “India’s bin Laden,” he was arrested after a brief exchange of fire at Ghazipur in Delhi, the Delhi Police said.

Delhi Police added that Qureshi had travelled to Nepal with fake documents and had been living there for many years. He also visited Saudi Arabia between 2013 and 2015 and returned to India to revive the terror network.

Qureshi has been accused of plotting the blasts in Ahmedabad and Surat on 26 July 2008. As many as 21 bombs were planted in tiffin carriers and motorcycles in markets, bus stations and even hospitals.

“Qureshi’s arrest will dent the organization’s growth slightly because the mastermind has been nabbed and Qureshi had the potential to do a lot of damage. While they always train someone else to take over, it will take time for the new head to mobilize resources, funds and people towards the cause of the organization,” Kanwal said.

However, intelligence units that have been tracking Qureshi and the group’s movements stated that they lacked the technological know-how to come on par with the more aggressive militant groups operating in Kashmir.

“SIMI comprises terrorists who are low on technological know-how and do not have access to high-tech weapons. It is no secret that Pakistan is throwing its weight behind the organization too, because at the end of the day SIMI is carrying out anti-state activities,” said a senior intelligence officer, who did not wish to be named.

“SIMI is a threat, but not yet a force to reckon with unlike the JeM. They lack the sophistication of the seasoned terror groups. Even if SIMI is aligning itself with the LeT, the LeT has so far been contained in India is not getting adequate funding from Pakistan as of now. So it is unlikely that they will make a strong comeback in the future,” the officer added.