Terrorism: Holiday Time in South Asia

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November 3, 2005: The October 29th bomb attacks in India, that killed about 60 people and injured perhaps 200 others, were set off at a time of particularly important religious observances by both Hindus and Moslems. The Hindu festival of Diwali - the "Feast of Lights," a joyous celebration often described as similar to Christmas in America -- was coming to an end, while Moslems were preparing to mark the profoundly spiritual "Night of Power" (October 30-31), commemorating God's granting of the Koran to Mohammed, and the final festive observances ending the month-long Ramadan fast. As a result, the places bombed - a market, a railroad station, and a bus - were full of people doing holiday shopping.


As the attacks were well-coordinated - all three bombs went off within minutes of each other - some commentators have attributed them to Al-Qaeda. But the Indian government believes they were made by Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a Moslem-extremist group operating in Jammu and Kashmir, or some faction of the LeT. LeT is generally believed to have been involved in an attack on the Indian Parliament in December of 2001 and an earlier attack Red Fort, also in in New Delhi, in December of 2000. The groups has its origins in Afghanistan. It was formed there in 1990 by Kashmiri mujahadeen who were veterans of the war against the Soviet Union, and has ties to several other Islamist fundamentalist groups, notably the Pakistani Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad movement. It began operating in Kashimir in 1992, and has been involved in a number of terrorist attacks over the years in Kashmir, Pakistan, and India
While the intent of the attacks may have been to spark anti-Moslem rioting by Hindus, the victims included Moslems as well as Hindus. As a result, in terms of LeT's objective, the incident was a failure, and possibly one made worse by the killing of good Moslems at a most holy time of the year.

Pakistan immediately condemned the incident, thereby siding with India, with which it has been improving ties for several years now, a process being helped by Indian assistance to earthquake relief in northern Pakistan. In a further gesture conciliatory gesture, the two countries have agreed to open routes across the "Line of Control" (i.e., cease fire) in Jammu and Kashmir, while reserving their respective territorial claims.

Meanwhile, some Moslem religious leaders have complained that Pakistan is not getting enough international assistance. Their point is somewhat accurate, given the unprecedented number of international disasters over the past year, which have drained the pockets of traditional "giving" countries, notably the West and Japan. But some of their criticism has been focused on the failure of Moslem countries to come forward with assistance, a phenomenon first widely remarked with regard to the December 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.

 

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