Shades of LeT

Published : Jul 29, 2005 00:00 IST

PRELIMINARY surmise that the terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was the perpetrator of the attack in Ayodhya began to gain acceptance essentially on account of its track record in Uttar Pradesh and its sustained focus on creating trouble in Ayodhya.

According to sources in the State police, including the Special Task Force (STF) which was formed specifically to curb and counter terrorist activities, the LeT has launched several expeditions to Ayodhya. Many of these missions had targeted the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex. A senior law enforcement official told Frontline that "at one point during 2000-03, there were eight LeT modules (assigned groups) making moves to damage the structure". State government records highlight the frenetic activity of the group in U.P. during the period. The STF was able to smash five LeT terror plans. One of the most prominent one was in May 2001, targeted at the busy Hanuman Garhi area of Ayodhya. The LeT team involved in this action had assembled 10 kilograms of RDX (Research Department Explosive) in two jeeps and timed the devices to explode within a gap of eight minutes. The team succeeded in reaching Hanuman Garhi without any hitch, parked the jeeps and even set the timer for the massive blasts. But the battery of the timer got discharged and the bombs did not explode.

The STF investigation into the mysteriously parked jeeps led to the arrest of two Indians - Salim Qamar of Azamgarh and Althaf of Akbarpur - and the killing of one Pakistani, identified as Imran Ahmed of Karachi. Investigations into the Hanuman Garhi operation brought new LeT operations to the notice of the STF. The STF found out that the LeT had got another allotment of 16 kg of RDX in June 2001. It foiled the LeT's plan to use the explosives in August 2001. Two other LeT modules were smashed, in October 2001 and March 2002. The latter module, the STF investigation revealed, was assigned by the LeT to create trouble during the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's (VHP) shiladaan programme in Ayodhya on March 15, 2002. But the team was stopped well before it could reach Ayodhya.

The interrogation of this LeT module, highly placed sources told Frontline, revealed so much information that the State police were able to help the security agencies fighting militancy in Jammu and Kashmir as well as Central agencies like the Intelligence Bureau to plan decisive counter-offensives against the LeT hierarchy in India.

Following this, there was a lull in the LeT's operations in U.P. But the organisation's "abiding interest" in Ayodhya was well known to the security and intelligence agencies. This was the factor that motivated suggestions that the LeT could be the force behind the July 5 strike.

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