Terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba ‘planning paraglider attacks’ in Indiahttp://www.timesonline.co.uk/
Indian intelligence officials suspect that the terrorist group behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks is planning another audacious strike on the country — this time from the air, using suicide bombers flying paragliders.
U. K. Bansal, an Indian Home Ministry official, told reporters that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba faction was thought to have acquired a number of the gliding parachutes.
“We have intelligence reports that LeT has purchased 50 paragliding kits from Europe with an intention to launch attacks on India,” he said.
No other details were given, but security levels have been hiked across the country ahead of tomorrow’s Republic Day celebrations, one of India’s biggest holidays.
If accurate, the intelligence would mark a radical new tactic. Experts said the potential threat posed by jihadist paragliders would have to be considered seriously as LeT — which murdered 166 people in Mumbai in a sophisticated commando-style raid — has already proven itself highly innovative.
“The Mumbai attack [where ten LeT gunmen sailed to Mumbai from Karachi, murdering the crew of a fishing boat en route], was the group’s first act of sea-borne terrorism,” said B. Raman, a former counter-terrorism chief in the Indian foreign intelligence service, the Research and Analysis Wing.
“It would be natural for them to plan another spectacular attack from the air. The warning has to be taken seriously.” Paragliders usually do not have an engine but can — in skilled hands and in the right conditions — cover large distances. The world record for flying a paraglider is more than 460km (285 miles).
However, they usually need to be launched from a high point, or towed by a boat or car, which could limit their effectiveness.
The latest alert came after the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned last Wednesday that a syndicate of terrorist groups could trigger a war between Pakistan and India through a “provocative act”.
Relations between India and Pakistan, nuclear armed neighbours which have gone to war three times, deteriorated sharply in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.
LeT has been active since the early 1990s and is said to have been created with the help of Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the Directorate of Inter-Service Intelligence.
It was founded to try and free Kashmir from Indian control, and came to specialise in the type of suicidal raid that shocked the world over a 60-hour period when Mumbai was attacked in November 2008. The organisation was banned in Pakistan in 2002.
Indian officials also warned last week that a terrorist group — possibly LeT or al-Qaida — was poised to hijack an Indian passenger plane.
On Friday, an Indian Home Ministry official confirmed that security had been tightened at all airports. Officials said that sky marshals would be deployed on flights around the region.
Indian officials have feared the possibility of an air attack for some time. Eight days after the Mumbai attacks, the Defence Ministry ordered the nation’s armed forces to be on guard against “terror strikes from the air”.
At that time, the India Bureau for Civil Aviation is thought to have been given warning of plans to capture one or more planes at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore or Chennai airports, the country’s main transport hubs. Officials said that credible intelligence indicated a plan to attack a major population centre using an airliner in an assault that would resemble those made on New York in 2001. There were also fears that one of India’s nuclear facilities could be targeted.The last time an Indian passenger plane was targeted was Christmas Eve 1999, when an Indian Airlines flight was hijacked by Pakistani nationals as it flew from Kathmandu to Delhi. That plane landed in Afghanistan, where the hostages were released in exchange for three Islamist extremists.