Targeting railway tracks to inflict maximum casualties appears to be the new, macabre dimension to the emerging terror strategy in India. A low-intensity blast in a train at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday and the subsequent 12-hour-long commando operation on the outskirts of Lucknow, to flush out a terror suspect linked to the blast, mark an alarming trend in terrorist activities. Preliminary investigations suggest that the Ujjain blast, which left ten passengers injured, is the first instance of a terror strike inspired by an ISIS module in India. Given the track-record of unspeakable brutality and ruthlessness of Islamic State, the latest strategy poses a major challenge to India’s security and intelligence establishment. While details are still trickling in, the enormity of threat is certainly a major cause for concern. If trains are indeed the new terror targets, the security agencies are up against a gigantic challenge to ensure the safety of the tracks. Being the fourth largest network in the world, the Indian Railways carries nearly 23 million passengers a day over more than 64,000 km of track. The Ujjain blast may well be a ‘trial run’ by the ISIS module, which is said to be planning a series of sensational attacks across India.
Stepping up intelligence gathering and flawless coordination among State and central agencies will help security establishment stay ahead of the curve in fighting the terrorist menace. As a result of coordinated efforts between MP and UP police, eight members of the ISIS module were swiftly arrested while UP’s anti-terror squad carried out the Lucknow operation to capture its leader Mohammed Saifulllah holed up in a house. Despite best efforts by commandoes, he could not be caught alive. His body was found inside the hideout along with weapons, an ISIS flag and a railway timetable. Saifulla, a resident of Kanpur, was believed to be getting directions from his international handlers. Incidentally, all those arrested have links to UP. Forced to retreat from its strongholds in Iraq and Syria, a frustrated ISIS will look for soft targets to open new battlefronts. India cannot afford to be complacent about the impending danger from the most dreaded terror outfit in the world and needs to be vigilant all the time. An all-out effort must be mounted to counter terror propaganda on the social media and prevent ISIS from radicalising the youth. The intelligence agencies deserve appreciation as they have been able to foil terror plots by IS-inspired jihadis in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. During the last one year, over 60 Indian-origin IS recruits, who were part of at least half-a-dozen modules, have been arrested before they could carry out attacks.