An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 03 November 2003

Attacks Intensify During Ramadan

We had predicted that the world was heading for some sort of crisis, by what was going on in Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the terrorism prone world. There seemed to be a pattern of renewed attacks by Muslim Jihadis in Baghdad, Afghanistan and Kashmir from the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Religion and politics are a very heady mix and Lee Kuan Yew on CNN opined that more troublesome days were to come. In India, Hindus have had rabid Naxalites but not many suicide terrorists (though LTTE in Srilanka had produced them), but Muslims on the other hand were producing more and more suicide bombers, and there was little one could do against them. It looks very ominous for the free world that the next 30 days could be a bloodbath by militant attacks around the globe. Here are some media clippings:

Afghanistan: 鄭fghan Ambush Kills CIA Workers"

BBC: 28 October 2003

Two US nationals working for the CIA tracking terrorists in Afghanistan were killed over the weekend. Their deaths occurred near the village of Shkin in the province of Paktika. Both men were part of the CIA's Directorate of Operations. Few other details of the men's deaths have been released. Meanwhile, some 22 Taliban and al-Qaeda rebels were killed in air raids by US-led forces in also in Shkin over the weekend.

Kashmir:"Two killed, 44 injured in two Kashmir blasts" & "'Top militant' killed in Kashmir"

ABC News, 28 October 2003 & BBC, 27 October 2003

At least two people were killed and another 44 were injured in two separate explosions in Kashmir on Tuesday. The two deaths and eight of the injuries were the result of a landmine explosion, while another 36 people were injured after a grenade was thrown into a telephone office. The attacks come on the first day of Ramadan. Also this week, Indian officials claimed that they killed top militant Saifur Rehman Bajwa, the chief of operations for Hizbul Mujahideen.

Guardian, 29 October 2003

"The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released a report today that warns that Afghanistan risks becoming a failed state run by narco-terrorists and organized crime if it cannot curb its production of illicit opium. Afghanistan provides three-quarters of the world's illicit opium, a crop that accounts for half of the country's GDP.  The body notes that with low risk and high yield, warlords and local drug cartels have little incentive to renounce the drug trade for legitimate enterprise; the longer that this continues unfettered, the more entrenched the illicit economy will become. The UN estimates, based on fieldwork and satellite images, that this year's poppy crop will be the second largest in Afghanistan, since recording began in 1994.

Human Rights Watch issued a press release today 28th October calling on Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai to work to stop warlords from manipulating the constitutional drafting process underway in the loya jirga. Unnamed warlords have reportedly issued death threats to loya jirga members to influence the process's outcome or to prevent some individuals from participating at all. Moreover, military figures have nominated themselves to the body, despite a decree issued in July 2003 expressly forbidding the participation of commanders and local government officials. President Karzai has not responded to the report."

Hindustan Times, 03 Nov 2003: "Iraqis Down US Chopper, 15 Killed"

"In the biggest attack since major combat was declared over on May 1, a US Chinook helicopter was reportedlt shot down by Iraqi rebels on Sunday, killing 15 soldiers and wounding 21 others, the US Command said. ..... Witnesses said they saw two missiles fired at the helicopter, which came down in farm fields near the village of Hasai, a centre of Sunni Muslim resistance to the US occupation."

Analysis by 'Strategic Forecast'

An analysis from Strategic Forecast is appended, to explain how decent the Americans had been to allow Ramadan feasts but their decency is going to be met with scorn. Bush has his hands full with opposition in Iraq and a large deficit to contend with. The Coalition Provisional Authority and US military in Iraq recently lifted a nighttime curfew in Baghdad to allow the city's inhabitants to celebrate the after-dark activities associated with Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims socialize with Iftaar dinners and gather after nightfall, meaning more people are out on the streets at all hours of the night, which potentially could create trouble for coalition forces. The string of attacks in Iraq raises an alarming question for US and other Western countries fighting al Qaeda: Were these attacks a symbolic trigger 末 a message from al Qaeda to its allies around the globe 末 to kickstart a campaign of attacks against Western allies, assets and infrastructure across the globe? Although the answer currently is unclear, the bombings will cause Western governments and businesses to respond as though Ramadan will be a month of bloodletting.

Muslims in various parts of the world mark the start of Ramadan differently, depending on their political orientation, geographic location and sometimes their sect. Traditionally, people look for the appearance of the new moon around dusk on the 29th day of the Islamic month of Shaban. If a sighting is reported, Ramadan begins the next day. If no moon sighting is reported, then
another day of Shaban is observed and the following day marks the beginning of Ramadan. The ability of militant Islamist organizations to act in concert on a global scale is a critical concern for the United States and its allies. Washington's war against al Qaeda is in part psychological, and both sides need to demonstrate that the other cannot operate globally without substantial risk. Al Qaeda hopes to raise the costs of US involvement in the Gulf region high enough that Washington will pull out. The United States needs to break al Qaeda's global network and Lee Kuan Yew said so too, so that it eventually can back the group's leadership into a geographic corner, lock it down and finally quash its operational capability.

Several questions remain about the Oct 27 attacks in Baghdad. For example, there are various and conflicting reports about both the number of attacks and their locations. Ad Doura, Al Bayaa, Al Elam, Ash Shaab, Al Shawla, Al Khudra and Al Jadida have all been mentioned as locations where the police stations were hit. Other reports indicate, for instance, that there was no suicide attack at Ad Doura, but that Katyusha rockets were fired at the police station instead. Moreover, there were reports before the Oct 27 suicide bombings of unexplained explosions inside the Green Zone 末 the converted presidential palace where the CPA is headquartered. These attacks followed the Oct 26 rocket attack on the al-Rashid hotel in central Baghdad, where U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying.

What is known, however, is that the attacks on the ICRC and the police stations were meant to undermine stability. The Red Cross announced that it will withdraw its agents from the country, following in the footsteps of the United Nations, which also reduced its staff in Iraq after its headquarters in Baghdad were bombed in August.

The attacks on the police stations are probably meant to discourage Iraqis from working with the CPA, and to prevent citizens from working with the police. While they may succeed in scaring off foreign players, the attacks won't stop Iraqis from working with the police. Baghdadis, for instance, are concerned about everyday issues of law and order and are likely to feel less supportive of any resistance, guerrilla or militant group that threatens the stability of their daily existence.

Given the current political and military situation in Iraq, neither the modus operandi nor the target set points to any one group. The country's Sunni guerrillas, former Ba誕thists and Hussein loyalists, foreign fighters from countries like Saudi Arabia and Syria 末 as well as a local cell of al Qaeda 末 are all potential suspects. It's possible that a collaboration of two or three different groups is working together. However, that does not give any insight into the more important question: Will this trigger attacks elsewhere on the globe?

Al Qaeda is a global network but also an operational unit formerly based in Afghanistan that might still be directing attacks against the United States and its allies in the Gulf. Al Qaeda Prime, the senior leadership's operating unit based in Afghanistan 末 which conducted the Sept. 11 attacks and other major operations 末 has never used symbolic dates for operational activities.
However, other militant groups have launched or planned attacks around symbolic dates. For instance, Egypt's Gama'at Islamiyya bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 on the day after Ramadan began. The Bali bombing by Jemaah Islamiyah in 2002 was supposed
to have occurred on the anniversary of Sept 11, but preparations weren't ready on time. Both groups are now reportedly allied with al Qaeda.

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