Indian intelligence infiltrated Islamic State in ‘unprecedented operation’

New Dehli IndiaA joint Indian-American counterintelligence operation, described as “unprecedented in its scale and scope”, reportedly foiled a major suicide attack by the Islamic State in New Delhi and helped achieve “a string of victories” against the group in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Citing “top diplomatic and intelligence sources”, the New Delhi-based daily The Indian Express said that the “audacious” operation took place a year ago, but details about it were only made available to its reporters in recent days.

The paper said that the operation lasted 18 months and involved the systematic surveillance of numerous suspects in Dubai, New Delhi and several cities in Afghanistan. It also involved substantial intelligence-sharing between Indian and American security agencies, as well as constant intelligence-gathering by as many as 80 Indian physical-surveillance experts. Intelligence gathered from physical surveillance was reportedly combined with information collected through telephone intercepts. Eventually it became clear that the Islamic State had recruited and trained 12 suicide bombers across several secret camps in Pakistan. The recruits were tasked with carrying out suicide bomb attacks throughout Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.

One such recruit, the 25-year-old “son of a wealthy [Afghan] businessman”, had been sent by the Islamic State to New Delhi to carry out his deadly mission. In order to escape the attention of the authorities, he had enrolled in a private engineering college in New Delhi. But he was arrested by Indian intelligence and quickly transported to Afghanistan, where he was interrogated by American officers. According to The Indian Express, intelligence gathered from these interrogations helped the United States-led coalition in Afghanistan achieve “a string of successes” against former Taliban forces aligned with the Islamic State. The Afghan would-be suicide bomber remains in Afghanistan under US custody, according to the paper.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 July 2018 | Permalink

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Pakistan bars its former spy chief from leaving the country over controversial book

Asad Durrani

Pakistan has officially barred a former director of its powerful intelligence agency from leaving the country, after he co-authored a controversial book with his Indian counterpart. Asad Durrani is a retired Pakistani Army general who served as director-general of Pakistan’s Directorate for Military Intelligence between 1988 and 1989. From 1990 to 1992, he served as director of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, arguably Pakistan’s most powerful government institution. Durrani, 77, has been severely criticized in some Pakistani circles for co-authoring a book entitled The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace, with his Indian counterpart, A.S. Daulat. Daulat, 78, headed India’s Research and Analysis Wing from 1999 to 2000.

The book, which was edited by the widely respected Indian journalist Aditya Sinha, has prompted heavy criticism of its two co-authors in nationalist circles in the two rival regional powers. But Durrani’s position became more tenuous on Monday, after the government of Pakistan announced that he had been placed under formal investigation. Pakistani Army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor told reporters in Islamabad on Monday morning that the revelations made in Lieutenant General Durrani’s book would be investigated by a formal court of inquiry, headed by a three-star general. He also said that Durrani had been urgently summoned to the Pakistani Army’s headquarters to answer allegations that he violated the Pakistani military’s code of conduct. Additionally, Ghafoor announced that Durrani had been placed on an official government-administered “exit control list”, which means that he is not allowed to leave Pakistan until further notice.

The Pakistani armed forces have not explained the precise reasons why Durrani is under investigation. His book makes several controversial allegations relating to Islamabad’s intelligence operations. A large part of the book contains details about Pakistan’s systematic efforts to foment armed unrest in the heavily Muslim Indian state of Kashmir, for instance by funding and training a host of Islamist paramilitary organizations that operate in the disputed region. The book also claims that the Pakistani government was aware of the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden in 2011, and that it cooperated closely with the United States to kill the co-founder of al-Qaeda. Islamabad has consistently denied allegations that it knew of bin Laden’s hideout in the city of Abbottabad, and that it gave permission to US Special Forces troops to raid his compound. If Durrani is charged with having violated the Pakistani military’s code of conduct, he could face a minimum of two years in prison.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 30 May 2018 | Permalink

Was Dubai ruler’s daughter kidnapped by UAE and Indian Special Forces?

Sheikha LatifaThe international advocacy group Human Rights Watch has joined calls for information on the whereabouts of Sheikha Latifa, a member of the royal family of the United Arab Emirates, who some say was abducted in international waters by Emirati and Indian special forces. Princess Latifa, 32, is the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of the Emirate of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE. But she has fallen out with the royal family and has repeatedly issued public calls for democratic reforms and more rights for women. In 2002, when she was just 18, she attempted to leave the UAE but was forcibly repatriated by her father’s bodyguards. In recent years, Princess Latifa has continued to vocalize her opposition to her father’s rule, whom she has accused of deploying “death squads” to suppress dissent within the UAE royal family.

It is believed that on February 24, Princess Latifa was joined by Tiina Jauhiainen, a Finnish martial arts instructor who has lived and worked in the Middle East, with the aim of implementing an elaborate escape plan. The two women traveled to neighboring Oman and used jet skis to transport themselves to international waters. There they boarded a yacht captained by Hervé Jaubert, a French former intelligence officer who also has United States citizenship. Jaubert became internationally known in 2009 for escaping from the UAE without a passport, after authorities there accused him of owing money to investors. Jaubert’s yacht, The Nostromo, sailed from the Arabian Gulf toward India with the two women and three Filipino crew members onboard. On February 26, Princess Latifa posted several messages on social media, including a video in English, explaining her reasons for leaving her home country. But soon afterwards, The Nostromo went missing while sailing toward the coastal Indian state of Goa. It didn’t reappear again until March 20, when it sailed for Sri Lanka with its captain and crew, but without the two women on board.

Jaubert has since told reporters that his ship was intercepted in international waters by “two unmarked speedboats” carrying between six and eight commandos. They used stun guns and smoke grenades to neutralize the yacht’s crew, which they proceeded to handcuff and blindfold. The soldiers then took the two women. Notably they spoke to Princess Latifa in English, prompting Jaubert to conclude that they were Indian, not Arab. Some reports later claimed that a minimum of five Indian and Emirati warships, as well as two military airplanes and a helicopter, participated in the attack on The Nostromo. Jauhiainen, who was eventually released and is now back in Europe, confirmed Jaubert’s account.

But the Indian authorities have rejected these claims, arguing that they have no knowledge of such a military or paramilitary operation off the coast of Goa. Human Rights Watch recently issued a formal call on the Indian and Emirati governments to reveal the precise whereabouts of Princess Latifa, who has not been seen since the raid. “Failure to disclose the whereabouts and status of the princess could qualify as an enforced disappearance, given the evidence suggesting that she was last seen as UAE authorities were detaining her”, said the international advocacy group. The government of the UAE has not responded to media requests for comment.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 07 May 2018 | Permalink

India arrests commando instructor who fell for Pakistani honey trap on Facebook

Garud Commando ForceIndian authorities have arrested an Indian Air Force officer for allegedly giving classified documents to two Pakistani spies on Facebook, who posed as women interested in him. The officer has been named as Arun Marwaha, a wing commander stationed at the Indian Air Force headquarters in Delhi. Marwaha, 51, is a para-jumping instructor who trains members of India’s Garud Commando Force —the Special Forces unit of the Indian Air Force. He was reportedly due to retire in 2019.

According to Indian government investigators, several months ago Marwaha was befriended by two Facebook users who claimed to be Indian women. He began chatting regularly with them on Facebook and eventually on the popular cell phone messenger service WhatsApp. Within weeks, Marwaha’s WhatsApp exchanges with the women had become intimate in nature. Before long, the Indian Air Force instructor was providing the women with classified documents in return for intimate photos of themselves. Media reports state that the classified documents related to special operations, some involving cyberwarfare, and space reconnaissance. Government investigators claim that Marwaha’s Facebook contacts were in fact male officers of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), who targeted Marwaha in a carefully planned honey trap operation.

According to reports, the breach caused by Marwaha was discovered last month, at which time the internal security branch of the Indian Air Force launched an investigation. Marwaha was questioned for over a week before turning over his case to Delhi Police, who arrested him on Thursday. He has reportedly been charged under India’s Official Secrets Act and is facing a jail sentence of up to 14 years. Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force is investigating whether other officers have fallen victims to similar honey trap operations by Pakistan’s ISI on Facebook.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 09 January 2018 | Permalink

Researcher seeks access to classified US document about Gandhi killing

Mahatma GandhiA researcher is seeking access to a potentially revealing classified telegram sent by a United States diplomat who witnessed the assassination of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. Gandhi, the leader of the Indian movement for independence, and a towering civil rights figure of the 20th century, was assassinated on January 30, 1948, as he was about to hold a prayer meeting in downtown New Delhi. His assassin, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, was a member of a Hindu nationalist paramilitary group, who blamed Gandhi for the bloody partition of India. He and a co-conspirator, Narayan Apte, were arrested for Gandhi’s murder and put to death in 1949.

But there are many who claim that Gandhi’s assassination resulted from a far larger conspiracy, involving many more people and groups, but was covered up. One such proponent is Mumbai-based researcher Dr Pankaj Phadnis, who has been pushing for a new official investigation into Gandhi’s assassination since 1996. Last week, Dr Phadnis petitioned India’s Supreme Court, arguing that an American intelligence officer was present during Gandhi’s assassination and filed a report that may point to a broader conspiracy to kill the Indian civil rights leader. Dr Phadnis also argues that American intelligence agencies may have been involved in a secret effort to protect Gandhi from physical danger.

The Mumbai-based researcher told the Indian Supreme Court that he was able to obtain access to American diplomatic documents during one of his recent visits to the US National Archives and Research Administration in Washington, DC. Among them were telegrams sent to the Department of State by the US embassy in New Delhi before and after Gandhi’s assassination. The two most telling telegrams, said Dr. Phadnis, were written shortly after the assassination by a longtime American diplomat, Herbert Tom Reiner. According to many eyewitness accounts, including Reiner’s own, Reiner was present during Gandhi’s assassination, and was standing no more than five feet from the Indian leader when he was shot by Godse. The American diplomat helped apprehend the assassin before he and others surrendered him to the authorities.

Reiner submitted two telegrams to Washington as soon as he returned to the US embassy following Gandhi’s assassination, which Dr Phadnis was able to access. But a third one, sent at 8:00 p.m. that same evening, remains classified and out of the reach of researchers. Dr Phadris said he filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the US government and is expecting an answer. Now he is trying to get the Indian courts to agree that the existence of new evidence, including Reiner’s telegrams, justify the reopening of the probe into Gandhi’s assassination.

Reiner left India in the summer of 1949 and served briefly as assistant attaché in Budapest, Hungary, before being transferred again, this time to Seoul, South Korea. He then held posts in Sierra Leone, South Africa and Canberra. He died in 1999 in the US state of Massachusetts.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 October 2017 | Permalink

Crisis looms over Pakistan’s impending execution of alleged Indian spy

Kulbhushan JadhavAnalysts warn that South Asia may witness its worst crisis since the 2008 Mumbai attacks if Pakistan carries out its threat to execute an Indian former naval officer whom it accuses of espionage. Authorities in Islamabad say Kulbhushan Jadhav (pictured) worked for the Indian Navy until 2003, when he was recruited by India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), a government intelligence agency that conducts operations abroad. The Pakistanis claim that Jadhav was arrested in southwest Pakistan in 2016, where he was engaged in funding and training secessionist militants from Pakistan’s Baluch minority. The Baluch are an Iranic people, most of whom live in a region known as Baluchistan, which is split between Iran and Pakistan. There are populous Baluch communities in the southern city of Karachi, one of Pakistan’s most populous ports. Some members of the Baluch community have secessionist aspirations and are accused of terrorism by Iranian and Pakistani authorities.

Soon after Jadhav’s arrest in March 2016, the Pakistani military released excerpts of an alleged videotaped confession by the Indian former naval officer. In it, Jadhav can be seen confessing to having worked on instructions by the Indian government to inflame ethnic divisions in Pakistan, from 2013 until his arrest. Last month, a secret military court in Pakistan sentenced Jadhav to death on charges of espionage. India, however, has rejected Pakistan’s allegations, saying that Jadhav’s confession was extracted through torture. The Indians claim that Jadhav was kidnapped by Pakistani operatives in Iran and brought to Pakistan by force. Indian officials dismissed Islamabad’s claim Jadhav was carrying his Indian passport when the Pakistanis captured him, saying that no undercover intelligence officer operating abroad would be carrying an Indian passport. New Delhi has warned of “serious consequences” if Pakistan engages in “premeditated murder” by executing Jadhav.

Some observers have noted that Jadhav was tried by a secret court martial, which signifies a radical break from standard practice. Moreover, the public announcements about his fate were made by the Pakistani military, rather than the civilian government, which is unprecedented. This leads some analysts to the conclusion that the Jadhav case is being handled solely by the military, which is trying to use Jadhav’s case to dissuade the government in Islamabad from reaching out to India with an offer for negotiations. There are also suggestions that the timing of Jadhav’s sentence might indicate that Islamabad hopes to exchange him for one or more of its intelligence officers that are being held by India.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 April 2017 | Permalink

India and Pakistan recall diplomats accused of espionage

Pakistani embassy in IndiaIndia is in the process of recalling eight of its diplomats from Pakistan, after their names and photographs were published in Pakistani newspapers with accusations that they are intelligence officers. According to anonymous sources in the government of Pakistan, three of the eight recalled diplomats have already left Islamabad for New Delhi. Five more are expected to leave the country before the end of the week. The three who left Pakistan yesterday were identified in the Pakistani media as Madhavan Nanda, Vijay Kumar Verma and Anurag Singh. Pakistani media said earlier this week that the three are “undercover agents”, suggesting that they are intelligence officers posted in India under diplomatic cover.

The eight Indian diplomats were recalled less than a week after Pakistan withdrew six of its diplomats from its embassy in New Delhi. Their names were released to the Indian media by the country’s intelligence services, following the arrest of Mahmood Akhtar, a Pakistani diplomat who was detained by Indian authorities, allegedly while committing espionage. Indian authorities said Akhtar admitted he was an intelligence officer under interrogation, and identified five more Pakistani diplomats as undercover intelligence operatives. All six were accused of espionage by New Delhi, declared persona non grata (unwanted persons) and were ordered to leave the country. Observers see the recent outing of the Indian diplomats in the Pakistani media as a tit-for-tat response by Islamabad.

Interestingly, none of the eight Indian diplomats were officially declared persona non grata by Pakistani authorities. But the publication of their names and photographs in the Pakistani media were sufficient to prompt the Indian government to recall them back to New Delhi. Tensions between the two neighboring countries have been rising in recent months, mostly over ethnic and religious tensions in the disputed region of Kashmir, which belongs to India but is populated primarily by Muslims. On Tuesday, one Indian soldier and thee Pakistani civilians were killed on both sides of the border, after fire was exchanged between warring sides.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 November 2016 | Permalink