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INTELLIGENCE LEADS ATS TO BIHAR IN SEARCH OF INDIAN MUJAHIDEEN’S YASIN BHATKAL
India’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS) picked up clues about the location of the operational leader of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), Ahmed Zarar Siddibappa (alias Yasin Bhatkal or Shah Rukh), who masterminded the July 13, 2011 triple-blasts in Mumbai that killed 27 people and injured more than 100. The ATS believes that Yasin and his brother, Iqbal Bhatkal, have been staying in districts of Bihar close to the Nepali border where they can move undetected (Hindustan Times, January 24).
After the arrests of 21 IM members in September 2008, Yasin moved to Bihar where in the districts of Madhubani and Darbhanga he recruited and trained two IM cells with neither cell knowing about the existence of the other (Hindustan Times, March 15). The Madhubani cell was responsible for the bombing of a German bakery in Pune, Maharashtra in February 2010 that killed 17 people, while the Darbhanga cell carried out the July 13 Mumbai attacks. Without out stating precise numbers, an ATS officer stated that “[Yasin] Bhatkal had managed to make a large number of recruitments in Bihar, and both the modules had a lot of members” (Hindustan Times, March 15).
On February 23, 2012 the top member of the Darbhanga cell and Yasin’s closest aide, Mohammad Qafeel Ahmed, was arrested in Darbhanga. He confessed to having recruited 11 young men in the city and hosted Yasin, Yasin’s other brother, Riyaz, and Iqbal, at his house. One month earlier, on January 23, Naqi Ahmed of the Darbhanga cell was arrested with Nadeem Shaykh in Maharashtra. The duo stole two scooters which were used to plant the bombs at Opera House and Zaveri Bazaar in Mumbai on July 13, 2011, and they also helped Yasin secure accommodation, SIM cards and money from hawalas for the July 13 attackers (India Today, January 24). The “friends list” of Naqi’s Facebook account and his other activities on social networking sites are expected to reveal valuable information about members of Yasin’s network (Hindustan Times, February 29). While Yasin remains elusive—possibly in Bihar or across the border in Nepal, or even in Pakistan—the ATS’ knowledge of more members in his cell may lead to his capture or, if not, it will significantly weaken IM networks.
SHINING PATH FACES LEADERSHIP VACUUM IN UPPER HUALLAGA VALLEY
The leadership of the Shining Path in the Upper Huallaga Valley continues to unravel. Comrade Artemio, the leader since 1999, was captured on February 12 and, like the two leaders before him, Comrade Feliciano and Shining Path founder, Abimael Guzman, will spend life in prison. Artemio never designated a successor even though he knew that intelligence on his location was mounting. In July 2011 the Peruvian army arrested his girlfriend, Elisa Monica Culantres Cordova (alias Evelyn), when she went to Lima, presumably to give birth since she was seven-months pregnant (Inforegion [Lima], July 4, 2011), and in January 2012, the Peruvian National Police captured Marino Tapullima, a member of Artemio’s security ring, in San Martin.
Walter Diaz Vega (alias Freddy or Percy) was a likely successor to Artemio since he was tasked with reconstituting the Shining Path faction in the Upper Huallaga Valley and planning the “selective annihilation” of the informants who helped the government capture Artemio. However, he was captured in Leoncio Prado province in Huanuco on March 4 with radio equipment and weapons in his possession (Andina, March 4). With Diaz Vega out of the picture, two other senderistas, “Tiburcio" and "Braulio," who operate in the valleys of Yanajanca and Azpuzana, may take over the leadership of the approximately 150-fighter faction (La Republica, March 5). Sources in the Upper Huallaga Valley expect that they will attempt a major attack on Peruvian army bases in the region to demonstrate their presence.
One other possibility is that the Shining Path faction in the VRAE led by Comrade Jose will attempt to subsume the Shining Path in the Upper Huallaga Valley. On March 8, the Shining Path in the VRAE released a pamphlet signed by Comrade Jose announcing the formation of the East Regional Committee (CRO) in the “Huallaga Zone, to be directed by the Central Committee Communist Party of Peru (PCP)” that called for unity between the two Shining Path factions (Correo [Ayacucho], March 8). However, most fighters in the Shining Path in the Upper Huallaga Valley still appear to remain loyal to Artemio and unlikely to switch allegiance to Comrade Jose’s faction. One day after Artemio’s capture 30 guerrillas held a demonstration in Papaplaya, San Martin to call for a general amnesty and Artemio’s release (RPP Noticias, February 14).