Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It is no coincidence that the horrific carnage on Bombay commuter lines yesterday evokes the attacks on New York, Washington, Madrid and London. The tactics of Islamist terrorist groups around the world are converging even after the war on terror’s five years of pressure on their leadership cadres. In this case, it appears that a Kashmiri Islamist terrorist organization with ties to international terrorism but with its own brand of militancy has come to mimic al Qaeda so fully that even the timing and methods of its signature attacks now closely resemble those of bin Laden-ism. This adds the Bombay bombings of July 11, 2006, to the derangedly synchronized procession of terrorism which includes the September 11, 2001, attacks and the March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombings.

By late yesterday, no group had claimed responsibility for the attacks, which killed at least 163 and injured more than 400 just hours after a series of grenade attacks in the Indian Kashmiri city of Srinagar killed eight. But signs point to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the “Army of the Righteous,” a Kashmiri Islamist terrorist group with links to al Qaeda which was formally designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States in 2001. Previously it was best known for an audacious December 2001 raid on the Indian Parliament, which brought the subcontinent close to war between nuclear-armed powers.

Years ago, before the onset of the war on terror, Lashkar-e-Taiba enjoyed an undeserved reputation for focusing on Indian targets in Kashmir, which allowed some to conclude that the group should be of secondary interest to outsiders. The reputation was not deserved because the group had in fact begun striking targets outside Kashmir, and because its ideological affinities to al Qaeda, its direct ties to the global jihad and its hatred of Israel, India and the United States were well known. But it allowed the group to hold on to the nominal perception that its aims and purview were primarily regional, and thus primarily a problem for India.

No more. That was all but assured with the nuclearization of the subcontinent, confirmed by the parliamentary attack in 2001 and then by the destabilizing effects of subsequent attacks in Delhi and Bombay, which shattered whatever was left of the “Kashmir-only” image. Today the tragic Bombay bombings — designed to demoralize one democracy’s hub of finance and culture — underscore that fact, illustrating how fully the group has converged with the international jihad.

This attack must not be allowed to ratchet up tensions between India and Pakistan, which many Indians accuse of secret support for the terrorists. One early positive step was the Pakistani Foreign Ministry’s strong condemnation late on Tuesday. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf augmented the message: “Terrorism is a bane of our times and it must be condemned, rejected and countered effectively and comprehensively.” Pakistan must help India identify and apprehend the terrorists.

It might even take a cue from Europe. “We are all Americans now,” some said after the September 11 attacks. Today, we are all Indians.

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