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    Paper no. 1139             08. 10. 2004

by B. Raman

Coinciding with the third anniversary of the start of the US military strikes in Afghanistan on October 7,2004,code-named Op. Enduring Freedom,  terrorist elements,  suspected to be from Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), have carried out four co-ordinated terrorist strikes involving explosives on October 7 and 8,2004.

2. Three of these strikes, involving car bombs,  were carried out in the Egyptian Red Sea resorts, frequented by Israeli tourists in the Sinai area, while the fourth, involving a parcel bomb,  was carried out against the Indonesian Embassy in Paris. Till the writing of this article, at least 27 tourists are estimated to have died in the Sinai blasts, the most serious of which was targeted at the Hilton Hotel at Taba, on Egypt's border with Israel. There were no fatal casualties in the Paris blast targeting the Indonesian Embassy. Ten persons were injured.

4. According to circles close to the Binori madrasa in Karachi, while Algerian/Moroccan members of the IIF living in France were probably involved in the Paris blast, the identity of those involved in the Sinai blasts is not clear. They do not rule out the possibility of the involvement of some European Muslim members of the IIF, holding passports of one of the European countries.

5. Since the IIF was formed in February,1998, it had avoided targeting Israeli nationals and interests because  the Palestinian organisations, who were keen not to lose the support of the US and West Europe in their struggle against Israel, had advised the IIF not to get involved in attacks against Israel lest suspicions of their links with Al Qaeda and the IIF create difficulties in their relations with the West.

6. The Mombasa blast of October,2002, directed against Israeli tourists, and the unsuccessful attempt to bring down a plane carrying Israeli tourists home from Mombasa  were the first incidents since February,1998, in which Al Qaeda/IIF involvement was suspected, but it was not proved.

7.According to these circles, the escalation of  acts of violence by the Israeli forces in the Gaza area and the refusal  of the Bush administration to control Israel have led to a change of policy and the Palestinian organisations  have now agreed to let Al Qaeda and the IIF directly target Israeli nationals and interests wherever possible. More attacks are likely, they say.

8. The Indonesian Embassy in Paris was targeted  to convey a warning to Indonesia to change its perceived persecution of the Jemaah Islamiya leaders, allegedly at the instance of the US, as well as to France over its policy of banning Muslim girls from wearing their traditional head dress in public schools.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation,Chennai Chapter. E-mail: )