'Jihadists Take Nuclear Step'


For anyone keeping track of terrorism trends, it has been a depressing 16 months since the carnage of the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Terrorists have continued to be deadly and innovative in their tactics and expansive in their reach since then, demonstrating a breathtaking diversity in their methods. But the most disturbing trend is the increase in attacks on security forces in charge of nuclear installations, attacks that are a reminder of a sobering fact—jihadists want to go nuclear.

High-profile terror attacks in recent months have underscored the variety of strategies among the ever-mutating terror outfits. On the one hand, they’ve shown a penchant for organized attacks involving hostages and maximum damage, something exhibited to great effect in the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008.

Perhaps most troubling about these kinds of tactics is that they bear the hallmarks of the commando-style operations employed by Pakistan’s elite unit the Special Services Group (SSG), a potentially revealing and disconcerting development.

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However, individuals have also employed what can be dubbed a KISS strategy—Keep It Simple Stupid. The axe-and-knife attack by a Somali man on Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard in Copenhagen in January is a good example of this.

In addition, there has been a growing trend toward militant outfits displaying transnational ambitions. The Kurdish Workers Party, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Hizbollah, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, among others, are all active in Western countries. Indeed, if the LTTE were to ever stage a comeback, it would largely be because of its Western network.

But most alarming of all is the jihadists’ quest for access to Pakistan’s nuclear arms. There are indications that Pakistan’s elite para-military force, the Frontier Constabulary, which has been at the forefront of operations against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Pashtun belt, has been infiltrated by terrorists.  Such a development poses a serious challenge to an international community trying to help secure Pakistani nuclear assets from Islamic terrorists, as the Pakistan army uses FC units for security duties at nuclear establishments.

An incident in October last year offered a glimpse of the dangers. On October 5, the Islamabad office of the UN’s World Food Program was attacked by a suicide bomber, resulting in the deaths of five UN officials.

The event itself was covered widely by the international media. However, one crucial detail that emerged from this bombing went largely unnoticed. The suicide bomber was dressed as an FC soldier. It seems likely that this allowed him to gain entry to the building without being checked either by the on-site security guards from a private company or the FC unit deployed in Islamabad to provide security to VIPs and critical sites.

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