Uri attack: The Italian connection to Indian terror
New Delhi, Feb 02: Something is churning in Italy these days and India has every reason to be worried. Back in the year 2016, the Enforcement Directorate had signalled to the authorities in Italy about a Help Services and it was suspected that it was linked to the ISI, Pakistan.
The allegation was that funds meant for the Hurriyat Conference were being routed through its call centre and money was being paid by the ISI to fuel tensions in Kashmir.
This is not for the first time that an Italian connection to the ISI has emerged. The recent probe by the National Investigation Agency also suggested that the ISI was routing funds through Italy to fund activities of terrorists both from Kashmir and Punjab in India.
These revelations come in the backdrop of an Intelligence Bureau report which speaks about the ISI and the Jamaat-e-Islami making efforts to meddle with the elections in India.
Francesca Marino while writing in the Firstpost says that there are 11 lakh Pakistanis living in Italy. However if one takes into account those living illegally, the figure goes up to nearly 13 lakh.
The probe by the Enforcement Directorate states that the money that was routed through Italy by the ISI was also used in the Uri attack of September 18 2016. Similar remittances were found going into the Khalistan terrorists from Italy, through the Pakistanis living there.
India has been seeking an arrest warrant against six Pakistanis living in Italy for allegedly channelising funds to spread terror in India.
The Italian connection:
This is however not for the first time that the Italian connection to Indian terror has emerged. Mohammad Yaqub Janjua, Aamer Yaqub Janjua, Mohammad Zamir and Athar Butt were key players of an international racket who had helped carry out the 26/11 attack. While Janjua and Aamer Yaqub had played a key role in moving money from Italy, Butt had ensured that identities of persons were stolen. Zamir on the other hand was arrested in connection with a phone hacking racket which raised funds for various terrorist activities including the 26/11 attack.
India never pursued these men with any aggression. It is not just in the 26/11 case that the role of these men was found. The recent chargesheet by the Enforcement Directorate also found that it was these men from Italy who had also funded separatists in Kashmir or rather moved money for them.
The probe conducted against these three persons brings to light several aspects. There was wire transferring of terror funds, theft of identity and also a phone hacking scandal which also led to the raising of funds. These are all aspects that continue to remain mysteries in the 26/11 attack and despite these men being arrested way back in 2009, there was no real push given by the government of the day.
Phone hacking had become a major money spinner for terrorist groups. It was found during an investigation conducted by the FBI that several AT&T phones had been hacked into and the money diverted for terrorist activities. Between the years 2007 and 2009 there were several instances of phones being hacked.
Muhammad Zamir, from Italy was arrested in 2007 for running a call centre through which he was buying information on cell numbers from hackers. After his arrest, this call centre was taken over by a Saudi national.
It was found that the hackers used to sell SIM cards which allowed users to make calls through lines that have been hacked. Using the same number, the calls are then made by others; only to be billed to the original customer. When a complaint is lodged about these fraudulent calls, the service provider reimburses the customer, which ends up with these terrorist groups which is eventually used to fund terror operations.
It had been found that a lot of money was moved between Italy, Indonesia and Pakistan.
While two operatives were arrested in Italy for moving money into accounts of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, it was suspected that the money was raised through the phone hacking racket.
Stealing an identity:
Athar Butt was an active operative in Italy. However during one of his visits to Spain he had been arrested. He ran a network which was involved in stealing documents are Italy, Thailand and also Spain. He was the leader of a nine member gang which would steal the identity of people and sell it to terrorist groups.
While investigations had suggested that he had stolen documents and handed it over to the Lashkar which carried out the 26/11 attack, the Indian investigators were not able to get to the bottom of this. Butt is a professional identity thief. He is not attached to the Lashkar alone. Infact he will sell identities of people if he is offered a good sum of money.
It had been found that the these persons had stolen the identity details of a person by the name Iqbal.
It was under the name of Iqbal that Rs 3 crore had been transferred to separatists in Kashmir between 2007 and 2010. What is ironic is that the name of Iqbal was also used when money had been transferred to the accounts of the Lashkar. This amount raised through the phone hacking racket was used for the VoIP calls that the terrorists made during the planning of the 26/11 attack and even while it was being executed.