Friday, August 01, 2008

The bomb blasts and their aftermath

It was a time that India has rarely seen in the past. Except for the transistor blasts in the 80's in Delhi, and then the bomb blasts that shook Bombay in 1993, the recent 3 day carnage (2 day + potential third) shook the nation and highlighted the total ease with which terrorists can destroy normal life in a city; at the same time, this also highlighted the current inability of the police and intelligence services to penetrate these terrorist groups and cells. People are worried, given that there were bombs on 3 successive days (even though the bombs did not burst in Surat); it seems that it is so easy to place bombs inside a crowded city, without people noticing, and then blow them up to cause an incredible amount of damage.
The sheer planning of the attack was a shock. This was not 1 or 2 bombs, these were numerous bombs that were placed in different parts of the city. If it was not so serious, placing bombs on top of a tree (they found such a bomb in Surat) and in many other public places takes some amount of time and effort, and the plotters were able to do so. In addition, it would seem that they did dry runs for these attacks, and again they were not detected.
The bomb making has moved away from using the RDX used in earlier bombs; now this may seem odd given that RDX is a much better explosive, but RDX leaves forensic traces, and showcases the role of Pakistan. Using common explosive, or even chemicals found in fertilizers makes it much more difficult to determine where the explosives came from, and makes post-blast investigation more difficult.
The planning for the bombs has been much more destructive; it was seen in Iraq that bombs were placed and timed such that consequent bombs would cause more damage to the panicking crowd; in the bomb blasts now, and in Jaipur earlier, the bombs were placed such that they would cause more damage by anticipating the people movement. In Jaipur, the bombs were placed in the market such that a running mob would be attacked by another bomb; in Ahmadabad, a bomb was placed in the hospital to go off sometime after the first attacks. People behind the bombs are out for maximum human life, and not deserving of any kind of 'misguided youth or citizens' talk. They need to be hunted down with the maximum ferocity.
What is the most problematic is the issue related to an almost total failure of the intelligence network. For some decades now, almost since the time of Indira Gandhi, the Intelligence Bureau has also been serving to collect information on the opposition, away from its main mission to prevent law and order issues and break-up threats to the nation and individual states. This has reached such a level that there is no incentive for skilled people to join the intelligence network; the fight between the different intelligence networks rules out much cooperation, and the various State and Central Governments could not care less. It is only at the time of such bomb attacks that they talk about preventing such attacks, only to fail again.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 4:38 AM