A bomb attack outside a German bakery in the Indian city of Pune on Saturday has received remarkably little coverage here in the UK. It killed eight people and injured a further 32. The attack came the day after India and Pakistan agreed to resume peace talks, after the Indian’s suspended them following the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008.
No one has claimed responsibility for the Pune attack but a statement from al-Qaeda’s militant arm in Pakistan – Brigade 313 – points to its involvement. It also warns of further attacks against Indian interests during the Hockey World Cup and Commonwealth Games which it is due to host later this year.
The message, written in Urdu, roughly translates as follows:
We warned the international community to play their role in getting the Kashmiris their right of self-determination and preventing India from committing brutalities in Kashmir, especially in Badipuar, raping the women and behaving inhumanly with Muslim prisoners.
We warn the international community not to send their people to the 2010 Hockey World Cup, IPL [Indian Premier League – an international cricket competition] and Commonwealth Games. Nor should their people visit India – if they do, they will be responsible for the consequences.
We, the mujahideen of 313 Brigade, vow to continue attacks all across India until the Indian Army leaves Kashmir and gives the Kashmiris their right of self-determination. We assure the Muslims of the subcontinent that we will never forget the massacre of the Muslims in Gujarat and the demolition of Babri Mosque [destroyed by Hindu militants in 1992]. The entire Muslim community is one body and we will take revenge for all injustices and tyranny. We again warn the Indian government to compensate for all its injustices, otherwise they will see our next action.
The cultural significance of the Pune attack strongly suggests the involvement of Brigade 313. The German bakery is known to attract Western tourists in the region and also serves Jewish clients from a nearby Chabad House.
Brigade 313 is a coalition of five previously disparate jihadist groups operating in Pakistan, including: Lashkar-e-Taibah, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Harkatul Jihad al-Islami, Harkatul Mujahideen al-Alami and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The name of their unified movement, Brigade 313, is a reference to the number of Muslim soldiers who participated in an early battle from Islamic history known as the battle of Badr (fought in 624). It encapsulates their intent entirely.
The Long War Journal explains:
This group is interlinked with Paksitan’s Taliban and also recruits senior members of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, a senior US official told The Long War Journal. The unit has been [behind] many of the high-profile attacks and bombings inside Pakistan, including multiple assassination attempts against former President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Gilani.
The group’s leadership, believed to consist of Qari Saifullah Akhtar and Ilyas Kashmiri, are veterans of the Soviet-Afghan War. That experience ensured their close personal links with the leadership of both al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In the 1990s they focused on expelling India from Kashmir although, more recently, they have demonstrated ambitions beyond the subcontinent. Another senior leader of Brigade 313, Matiur Rehman, is believed to have played some role in the 2006 trans-Atlantic airliner plot which was foiled at the last minute. Its fallout has left indelible marks on the way we travel.
The bilious belligerence of Brigade 313 underscores further the resurgence of the global jihad movement. Al-Qaeda’s chapters in the Maghreb, the Arabian Peninsula, horn of Africa, and South Asia are enjoying a second wind.
If any of the sporting events India is due to host this year are attacked by Pakistani militants, it would instantly attract global attention and maximum embarrassment. Expect the delicate relationship America is trying to forge for united Indo-Pak cooperation in the War on Terror to unravel and all hell to break loose.