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Analysing the bio-terror threat: Why routes in Kashmir, Assam are most vulnerable

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New Delhi, Nov 26: It has been ten years since India witnessed one of the worst terrorists attacks. The ten terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba landed in Mumbai by sea, following which they struck at numerous targets, which ended up in the loss of over 150 lives.

India has very often spoken about the threat the seas pose. The Mumbai 26/11 attack was one such example of how the seas were used to launch a major attack on India.

Analysing the bio-terror threat: Why routes in Kashmir, Assam are most vulnerable

Over the years, with the advent of the social media, terror groups have constantly improved their skills. They have several tricks up their sleeve and the Intelligence and Security agencies have to remain updated at all given times to fight such threats.

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Terror groups have been upgrading their skills. Their skills particularly in leveraging and improvising commercially available technological aids to support their operations have been upgraded considerably over the years.

Terrorists have also learnt to inject a high degree of surprise, speed and deniability in their operations. This has led to the Intelligence agencies constantly revamping their style of functioning.

Intelligence has over the years become more proactive. Moreover there is a dire need to be constantly informed and upgraded about the new threats so that the Intelligence can prepare itself accordingly.

Back in 2009, Ajit Doval, who is now the National Security Advisor had told this correspondent that India has tried to strengthen its protective security regime to deny terrorists tactical opportunities by hardening the targets. However in a country of India's size, vulnerabilities, limited resources and democratic freedoms, it is not possible to make all the potential targets impregnable. This leaves large gaps providing opportunities to the terrorists to take on soft targets, he had said.

Biological warfare:

When one speaks about the future of terror attacks, there is a need to mention biological warfare here. There are several terror groups, which have this capability, but have not launched a full fledged attack as yet.

While terror groups in Pakistan have the capability of launching biological strikes, none of them can independently launch biological warfare or use weapons unless and until there is a definitive nod from the government or the ISI. To this Doval had pointed out that Pakistan would do everything under the sun to exercise necessary restraint and control over terrorist groups in order to restrain them from using WMDs or Weapons of Mass Destruction against India.

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While Pakistan may exercise restraint, the threat however still looms large. A recent Intelligence report stated that nuclear and biological terrorism are the primary concerns today, with cities like Mumbai and Delhi being the most vulnerable.

While no one has gone all out in the use of biological warfare, terrorist groups have used such weapons in tested doses.

They are still testing the waters and it may be a while before they decide to completely go biological in their warfare. Security experts say that the biggest user of the biological and the nuclear weapons will be the Taliban and the ISIS. These are not run of the mill terrorist groups and both are trying to establish a government in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The danger of nuclear smuggling is immense today. Security officials working in both India and Pakistan have identified the routes through which nuclear weapons could be smuggled. Punjab, Assam, Kashmir and Balochistan and the danger routes identified by the Intelligence Bureau officials.

There is a lot of demand for nuclear and biological weapons in these areas are they are conflict torn zones.

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As the battle intensifies, the demand for stronger weapons will only increase and terrorist groups may go that extra mile to source such material. While it is extremely difficult to source such weapons and the costs are extremely high, groups such as the ISIS and the Taliban can afford it. They are making the right contacts in Pakistan and will target rogue scientists to lay their hands on these weapons.

The challenge ahead:

The challenge ahead for the security agencies in India is immense. The threat of a biological warfare cannot be ignored or taken lightly at all. Intelligence Bureau officials are aware of the capabilities of groups such as the Lashkar and Taliban which used very sophisticated weapons.

The threat of nuclear and biological weapons being smuggled had started in the year 1998 itself. The threat of biological warfare has to be nipped in the bud itself. If terrorists manage to contaminate water with biological agents the damage will be immense.

IB officials say that the routes in Assam and Kashmir have to be monitored at all times. The threat of these weapons coming in through these routes is immense. We cannot afford a slip up even once on this front, the officer says.

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Intelligence agencies say that the target cities for terrorist groups to use biological weapons in India will be Delhi and Mumbai. In Pakistan there is a chance of the same being used in Khyber Paktunkhwa, Singh, Islamabad and Karachi. Recently intelligence bureau inputs suggested that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba too had been working on a unit to deal with biological weapons. They have been making attempts to launch a biological warfare on India.

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