The Ujjain-Bhopal passenger train that was attacked on Tuesday
A detailed railway map of India with markings, pin-pointing sensitive junctions and description of railway track was among the effects recovered from the house in Haji Colony, Lucknow, by the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) commandos in the early hours of Wednesday, after a marathon 12-hour stake-out.
Commandos found the map among the effects of “neutralised” suspect Saifullah after they entered the house in the crowded Thakurganj area at 3 amon Wednesday. The map, which bore marks and some notations, was discovered along with a big cache of weapons in the house rented by Saifullah, believed to be from the IS’s Khorasan module. Eight pistols, 650 rounds of ammunition, 50 fired rounds, explosives materials, gold, some cash, passports and SIM cards were recovered from the house.
The railway map has now categorically confirmed to Intelligence authorities that Jehadi groups likely have large scale plans to target public utilities, especially high use surface transport such as road, rail and metro (aviation is a pet target in the West already) across India to further their “cause”. Transit, in particular, has emerged as vulnerable targets for terror groups worldwide, allowing both high publicity and maximum threat of damage and destruction to spread fear. Given this reading, Intelligence agencies have been put on alert countrywide.
The coordinated efforts and active intelligence sharing on terror groups between officials in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in the Ujjain train blast case has endorsed the new security normal countrywide. Officials believe that the attacks planned by Jehadi elements including the IS (the Ujjain train blast is viewed as its first handiwork in India) could extend beyond the railways to other heavily used passenger services such as metro services, as was done on the Brussels metro in March last year.
Extensive studies done by both independent and government foreign agencies last year identified add credence to the Intelligence reading here that surface transport networks and transit are indeed the new and much preferred terror target for Jehadi elements. Worldwide, terror attacks with 25 or more fatalities on buses, trains and passenger ferries grew from a mere four between 1975-85 to 39 between 2005-2015, according to an expansive study by the Mineta Transportation Institute. That was further endorsed by studies based on data from the Global Terrorist Database gathered by the Maryland University’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorist and Responses to Terrorism (START).
According to ATS Inspector General Aseem Arun, every attempt was made to capture Saifullah alive and make him spill out details on plans by Jihadi groups to attack public utilities countrywide. That however failed. But the railway map of India found in the Haji colony house, with all details on tracks in key areas and close to junctions, is expected to provide additional information on other possible targets where attacks were planned. Classified information on the terrorists, with possible links to the Islamic State (IS), was passed on urgently to the UP government and the ATS by intelligence sources in MP who were closely tracking those involved in the Ujjain train blast on Tuesday morning. MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan had maintained that the information on the operations planned and carried out was directly being passed on to IS leadership.