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Archive for December, 2010

WikiLeaks cables: Rahul Gandhi warned US of Hindu extremist threat

Posted by :) on December 20, 2010

Scion of India’s leading political family told ambassador radicalised Hindu groups could create religious tension and political confrontation

Rahul Gandhi campaigning ahead of the Indian national electionsRahul Gandhi warned the US of a potential threat from Hindu extremist groups, secret cables have revealed. Photograph: Findlay Kember/AFP/Getty ImagesRahul Gandhi, the “crown prince” of Indian politics, told the US ambassador at a lunch last year that Hindu extremist groups could pose a greater threat to his country than Muslim militants.

In controversial comments likely to cause a storm in India, Gandhi – considered a likely prime ministerial candidate and a scion of the country’s leading political family – warned Timothy Roemer that although “there was evidence of some support for [Islamic terrorist group Laskar-e-Taiba] among certain elements in India’s indigenous Muslim community, the bigger threat may be the growth of radicalised Hindu groups, which create religious tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim community“.

The 40-year-old politician, the son of the Congress party president, Sonia Gandhi, told the ambassador that “the risk of a “homegrown” extremist front, reacting to terror attacks coming from Pakistan or from Islamist groups in India, was a growing concern and one that demanded constant attention”.

The US view of him has evolved. In late 2007, US diplomats described the young politician, recently appointed to lead the Congress youth wing, as “widely viewed as an empty suit and will have to prove wrong those who dismiss him as a lightweight”.

“To do so he will have to demonstrate determination, depth, savvy and stamina. He will need to get his hands dirty in the untidy and ruthless business that is Indian politics,” one said in a cable entitled The son also rises: Rahul Gandhi takes another step towards top job.

Other cables talk of Gandhi’s political inexperience and repeated gaffes. They also repeat cutting criticism from political analysts and journalists.

However as Gandhi warmed to the US, the US warmed to him. In a meeting with another American official last summer, he explained his strategy of targeting rural populations and small towns, impressing his interlocutor.

“[Gandhi] came off as a practiced politician who knew how to get his message across, was precise and articulate and demonstrated a mastery that belied the image some have of [him] as a dilettante,” the official said.

In November last year, after a meeting with the US ambassador, a cable to Washington described Gandhi as “an elusive contact in the past” but now “clearly interested in reaching out to the USG [United States government]“.

A cable from February this year describes him as “increasingly sure-footed”.

For Roemer, writing after the lunch during which Gandhi had commented on extremism, “the rising profile of young leaders like Rahul Gandhi provides [the USA with] an opening to expand the constituency in support of the strategic partnership with a long term horizon”.



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Varanasi blast marks arrival of plastic bombs

Posted by :) on December 20, 2010

Source : Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui, TNN, Dec 13, 2010

LUCKNOW: Forensic experts probing the December 7 Varanasi blast don’t rule out the possibility that the explosive used in the terror attack could belong to the plastic family — PETN/TNT/C4 — so far not favourite of terrorists in India.

The hypothesis rests on a number of elements that the forensic experts have come across while probing the blast that took place at Dasaswamedh Ghat in Varanasi. Five days after the blast, investigators are yet to find any residue of the explosive used, remains of any circuit or detonator and even use of shrapnel in the explosive. The blast site was, however, cordoned off soon after the incident and screened by the investigating agencies. “Such features are usually associated with explosive from the plastic bomb families,” said a forensic expert probing the blast. “This is entirely different from what we’ve seen in any blast sites in the country,” added the expert, who didn’t wish to be named.

Although the experts are yet to identify the composition of the explosive, a study of the blast site suggest the possibility of a PETN (pentaerythritol trinitrate combined with nitroglycerin) being used. “Though a stable liquid in itself, PETN can be detonated by using heat or shockwave. Thus after the blast neither any liquid nor detonating device is found at the blast site,” said a officer.

Other factors that suggest the possibility of PETN being used are that the blast left a heavy and dense cloud of smoke and had a deafening sound but didn’t trigger a fire. In the sub-continent, PETN is used by Lashkar-e-Taiba and is the latest favourite of terror outfit like Al-Qaida.

About the terror outfit behind the blast, especially on the basis of the explosive used, the investigators say it could have been the handiwork of sleeper cells in UP (Headley has said there are 24 such cells in UP under what is identified as “Project Karachi“.


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