Bengaluru blast-Chasing an outfit, not the bomber

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Bengaluru, Dec 30: We have heard of this concept called Lone Wolf terror several times in the past. The New York bomber, the Glasgow attacker or the man involved in the Sydney siege- all were incidents of Lone Wolf terror.

For any agency probing an incident of terror it is a far easier job when they commence a probe by blaming an organization or outfit rather than find a lone wolf. An outfit has a pattern while a lone wolf does not. Let us now look at this concept of lone wolf terror in the backdrop of the Church Street blast.

Bengaluru Blast 1

Blaming an outfit always easier:

Following the blasts, the police threw up the names of the usual suspects- Al Ummah, SIMI and the Indian Mujahideen. These are all organized groups which have a pattern of functioning.

The signature styles of these outfits were discussed and the police did in fact send several teams to various states to probe these links. The fact of the matter today is that there is nothing called a signature style and it is very easy to read up online and ape an outfit.

In several cases in the recent past, we have see investigators attributing an attack to an organization, carrying out a few arrests and then declare that the mastermind has fled to another country. Here ends the probe and in the long run this does not help the cause.

The lone wolves:

Karnataka is no stranger to the lone wolf terrorist. Kafeel Ahmed, a resident of Bangalore was someone who had no association with any terror outfit. Self radicalized and upset with the West he read up online, prepared a bomb and tried to blow up the Glasgow airport.

Similar incidents of lone wolf terrorists striking have been during the London Subway and Boston marathon bombings and very recently at Syndey too. In these cases, the accused had read up online, watched videos and prepared the bomb.

Even terror outfits prefer the lone wolves:

The recent call by the Al-Qaeda urging the lone wolves to carry out strikes says a lot. It is a clear indication that terror groups are finding it extremely difficult to penetrate into high profile locations.

When it comes to a terror outfit there is ample intelligence on them and the scrutiny of their members is very high. What about a lone wolf? He is one radicalized soul sitting in his apartment deciding to bomb a particular place with no connection with any terror group.

It is virtually impossible to track down such a person as he makes no contact with a leader or handler. He just preps himself up and them comes out and carries out a bombing.

Bengaluru blast 2

Why are the Bangalore police not building a profile?

The police claims to have a lot of CCTV imagery. It is now time that they built a profile on the bomber or bombers. While there is nothing wrong in exploring the possible roles played by an outfit, there is also nothing wrong in exploring an angle called the lone wolf.

A cue could be taken from the United States of America. While dealing with the concept of lone wolf, they tend to focus just on that man instead of an outfit on the whole. The outfit comes in much later if at all there is a link.

The US , in fact starts off by creating a profile, while commencing a probe. They collect all the footage, his call details and also rely heavily on eyewitness accounts before nabbing him.

The Indian police could take a cue from this and instead of chasing an outfit, profile the bomber instead as this would go a long way in solving the crime. This way the investigation remains focused and one must remember that it is only once that the bomber if nabbed does the police get to know whether it was an organization or a lone wolf that carried out the attack.

An outfit usually does not like to waste an effort:

In a terror attack, there is usually a lot of planning that takes place. When Sabahuddin Ahmed of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba was questioned after his involvement in the IISC attack was found, he had told the police that his handlers do not like money and efforts being wasted.

The IISC attack was in fact a failed attack and when they returned to Pakistan, they got a dressing down from their handler who said Rs 50 lakh had been spent on this operation and they do not like efforts and money going waste. In fact Abu Hamza who was with Sabahuddin was even demoted and kept away from operations for a long time.

If one looks at this logic then there are several questions that can be raised in the Church Street blast. The timing, the manner in which the bomb was prepared and placed are all subjects of discussion here. If it was a organized group that carried out the attack, then would the intention not have been to strike harder rather than just scare.

Is terror carried out to kill or scare:

While reading through the numerous confessions of several terrorists one gets the impression that the motive is just to kill and not scare. Carrying out an attack with an intention of scaring is too much of a task for any outfit.

After all the planning and the great efforts taken to penetrate into the area, they would ideally want to damage as much as possible rather than send a message.

Moreover, if the intent is to send a message to the agencies then outfits would be quick to claim responsibility which has not been done in this case or the previous few cases. Terror groups thrive on publicity and they are quick to claim responsibility for an attack and they prefer not to remain anonymous once an attack is carried out.

Security analysts would point out that they have the social media with them today to scare people. They would continue to issue threats online and create panic rather than carry out a low intensity attack to scare people. If they manage to strike then they would plan something really very big.

Thoughts on the Church Street blast:

The manner in which the bomb was prepared and placed does give an impression that the intent was just to scare and not kill. It is really very unfortunate that one lady lost her life in this attack. The bomb was hidden between the plants and the IED was loosely packed with rusted nails. Clearly a job done in a hurry.

Church Street normally is a crowded area, but on a Sunday evening the crowds are relatively less. It is normally packed on a Friday or Saturday night. Also if an outfit wanted to strike big, then he would have chosen either Friday, Saturday or even January 31 which was just a few days away.

Was it an amateur?

What the agencies need to start doing is profiling the bombers behind such attacks to get a better understanding of their mindset. There are people who are angry with system especially the police. There are enough and more messages online ranting about the police handling of terror.

In addition to this there are also mentally sick people who are frustrated with the system and are capable of carrying out an attack of this nature with an intention of throwing out their frustration.

This attack on Church Street could well be a case of a lone wolf. If he had a message he would have sent one for sure after the blast. The manner in which the bomb was prepared suggests that he was an amateur who took lessons online.

In this bid to wind up the probe in a teething hurry the police may just end up fixing the responsibility on an outfit and in the bargain let the bomber get away. Guess it is time to profile the bomber instead of chasing the organization first.

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