The Islamist terror attack on a Dhaka café last Friday (01 July) can be considered as a classic terrorist operation defined as a ‘wolf-pack’ attack.
Unlike the lone-wolf or single terrorist attacks in the western nations, countries of the Indian Continent have to be prepared for squads of terrorists attacking unarmed civilians in the name of Islam. An analysis of the Dhaka attack can give the Police and Law Enforcement authorities the overview of the thought process, planning and on-ground activities of this new breed of terrorists.
First and fore-most, this terrorist attack was different from the 26/11 attack on Mumbai. In the Mumbai attack, the terrorists followed a focused attack-plan that was the brain-child of Pakistan Army’s ISI branch. In this attack, targets had been identified in advance and strike teams given specific objectives and clear instructions. During the duration of the attack on Mumbai, the terrorists were in constant communications with their handlers and ‘spiritual advisers’ who guided and encouraged the terrorists throughout the forty-eight hours of the siege.
The Dhaka attack was different. According to credible sources, the attackers had reached the area around the upscale restaurant in Dhaka when they were initially spotted by private security guards. On being challenged, the jihadis rushed to the restaurant that is a favorite of foreigners who patronized it. Thus the question comes to mind that, was the attack on the café a spur of a moment decision on being detected by security guards, or was it one of the possible targets under consideration? Inside the café, terrorists took the diners hostage and executed those who could not recite the Koran while sparing the lives of those who were determined by the jihadis to be true Muslims. This part of their actions is totally opposite of the actions of the 26/11 attackers who killed randomly and without differentiation of religion of their victims. Furthermore the weapons that the Dhaka attackers carried were; at least one high powered rifle or automatic carbine, hand-guns (maybe country made handguns), country-made bombs and a butcher knife. This indicates that they were a rag-tag group of criminals, rather than well-equipped, heavily funded, state sponsored militants. They had no communication to an outside controller or adviser, and their barbaric actions were based purely on differentiating humans as Muslims and non-Muslims.
The police fatalities that occurred in the first hour of the police response point out two disparate issues. One policeman was shot when he was running in open area in front of the hostage site while the other was reported to have been shot as he tried to investigate the commotion.
This points to the initial police reaction being both casual and unprofessional. The exact specifics of their murders are awaited. The number of attackers involved varied at the start of the attack to its end. Initial reports stated almost a dozen attackers, the final figure at the closure of operations was six jihadis killed and one captured. As is the case with most terrorist attacks, initial information is at best confusing and at worst it is misleading.
The Dhaka police responded quite fast and sealed of the area. That was the good part. The other part (not necessarily bad) was that the authorities tried to negotiate the release of hostages from the terrorists. This is a grey area where various “experts” will have their own opinions. In real life, however; while the Government concerned may have a broad policy in place for battling terrorist attacks, the final decisions on whether to engage the terrorists in dialogue to save the hostages or in battle to defeat them and save as many hostages as possible; is a matter best left to the field commanders who are on the battle site and engaging the terrorists.
The Dhaka terrorist attack is a portent for the future. The terrorists were local, who per currently available information had not traveled abroad for either weapons training or indoctrination. In all probability there were radicalized in the local mosque, where their Imam may have introduced them to the philosophy of Daesh. As has to be understood in the context of terrorist attacks today; the terrorists who undertook the physical attack were only foot soldiers. In olden times such people were defined as ‘cannon fodder’; the uneducated, illiterate, homeless idiots who died for their leaders and for some sort of recognition. The availability of such idiots on the Indian continent is almost endless. They will be happy to give up their miserable existence in the slums of any major city for fifteen minutes of fame and the rather worthless honorific of a ‘Jihadi’.
While Daesh (ISIS) based in Syria was quick to take credit for the Dhaka attack, their claim has no real merit. Yes, it is factually correct that the Dhaka terrorists were under the influence of the Daesh philosophy of killing everyone and anyone who does not fit the concept of a ‘pure’ Muslim; but the actual attack was not sponsored or planned from Syria. Essentially, the influence of Daesh is the export of its radical philosophy that is understood in its crude black and white form by the local idiots who want to find Allah through the fastest possible route.
The most common question that comes to mind is; how to prevent or curtail such attacks in the future? Human Intelligence on the ground is the first and crucial option. The police and intelligence services will have to build their network of informants in various mosques and identify the Imams who preach Jihad and terrorism. This is not a new or unique idea. Intelligence agencies of Jordan, Kuwait, Emirates have already built up such network of spies in their own countries. The countries of the Indian Continent will have to invest in human intelligence networks to combat future ‘wolf-pack’ attacks. The second option is the use of technology to ‘detect’ the planning, ‘deny’ the opportunity and ‘defeat’ the terrorists; aka the 3-D process.
Of course, this is only the smallest aspect in the fight against terrorism. The larger aspect will be to have a Government policy that can effectively stop the source of funding for terrorist attacks (mostly from Saudi Arabia and Qatar) and the prosecution and if required, a legally sanctioned policy of physical elimination of Imams who preach terrorist jihad and their financiers.
UPDATE / Correction: Western media is reporting that the Dhaka Cafe terrorists were men in their late teens or early twenties and came from affluent rich backgrounds, and were products of Bangladesh’s elite. Among them was the son of the former leader of the Awami League, the current party that governs that country. Reports also state that three of the attackers were missing from their homes for a few months prior to last Friday’s attack.
This leads towards the grim reality that radicalization towards the ISIS brand of Islam cuts across all financial and cultural classes in society.
Pic Courtesy: (1) Fox News, (2) Economic Times, (3) Solonews.net – Thank You.