⁃ Shantanu Mukharji
As soon as the passengers specially the foreign tourists, started assembling underneath the Port Authority Bus Terminal in the bustling New York hub of transport activity on December 11, an explosion not only wreaked havoc amongst the crowd but pushed the New York authorities on a panic mode fearing worst terror attack. A large number of tourists had to be evacuated as part of the exigency to minimise casualties amid crowd running helter skelter for cover causing a near stampede.
A 27 year old Bangladeshi national known as Akayed Ullah, who had tied the crude bomb on his body, got grievously hurt and is now being treated in a local hospital. The bomb, part of a body worn improvised device, was successfully detonated though fortunately it failed to cause much damage. Bomb had a 12 inches long pipe, black powder, a 9 volt battery and a wire used for Christmas lights.
A resident of Brooklyn, the bomb suspect, Bangladeshi, Akayed Ullah, has been living in New York for the last seven years and is strongly believed to have been inspired by the ISIS. This clearly demonstrates to the extent the Bangladeshis are radicalised abroad. It’s a myth now that only home grown terrorists are indoctrinated for furthering IS designs. And Bangladesh has huge presence almost all over the world and radicalising them should not come as a surprise. By the wrongful act by Akayed Ullah, whole lot of Bangladeshis will now be subject to closer scrutiny by the US counter terror agencies. They have a sizeable presence in the western countries specially in the UK where thousands are engaged, legally and illegally, in hotels. Their existence may be imperilled due to tightened security measures in light of the terror attacks.
Interestingly, the latest misadventure coming within a couple of months of yet another ISIS inspired plot when Sayfullo Saipov (29) killed 8 innocents through a truck during the Halloween festivity is surely a matter of concern. Also, Christmas is so close making New York more vulnerable and fraught with fresh security challenges as any terror strike during the festivity will draw international attention. It may be recalled that in 2016, Berlin saw a lone wolf attack during Christmas only when many were fatally mowed down.
Meanwhile, ISIS sponsored propaganda images are showing up with Santa Claus holding his signature sack next to a bunch of dynamite sticks implying a prospective and impending terror attack during the Christmas. There is no intelligence warning or forecast, writing is loud and clear here meriting preventing measures. What more do we need? Warning is direct and in no vague terms. One of the warnings also adds “will meet in Christmas”.
According to counter terror experts and analysts in the US, ISIS has penetrated deep into the system and are ready to hit hard as and when there is a slightest opportunity. Mia Bloom, who leads the Documenting the Virtual Caliphate project at the Georgia State University, lessons for bomb making devices are disseminated widely through various Jehadi channels. Bloom goes on to state that prospective ISIS fighters attempting to travel to what remained of their collapsing self proclaimed Caliphate in the past two and a half months, have been turned back by recruiters.
It’s most significant to note that within hours of the Port Authority attacks on December 11, ISIS propagandists running Nashir News, Telegram channels and chatrooms distributed latest photos of packets containing instructions for the manufacture of a remotely controllable explosive devices. Such is the aggressive propaganda blitz by the ISIS which has already made deep forays. Situation, therefore, looks grim and uncertain.
Very recently Indian counter terror authorities had received an audio believed to be from the ISIS media wing, threatening to strike at religious congregations including at Kumbh Mela gatherings which are round the corner. Hence we notice a pattern emerging between the attack in the New York City and possibilities in India. At both the locations, ISIS presence is there and radicalised elements waiting to be exploited. While the Indian security agencies are alert and vigil foiling many attempts of strayed youth joining ISIS or implementing their terror agenda within the country, extra measures for a vigorous intelligence and sharp look out for the radicalised hopefuls merit priority lest our infrastructure and vulnerable spots fall prey to the perpetrators of mindless terrorists.
( writer is a security analyst on counter terror )