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A Profile of Iqbal Bhatkal: The First Indian Mujahideen Leader Added to India's Most Wanted List

Publisher Jamestown Foundation
Publication Date 28 September 2012
Cite as Jamestown Foundation, A Profile of Iqbal Bhatkal: The First Indian Mujahideen Leader Added to India's Most Wanted List, 28 September 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/506c257b2.html [accessed 20 September 2014]
Comments Arif Jamal
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Iqbal Bhatkal is a co-founder of the Indian Mujahideen (IM). The IM is the first Indian terrorist group which has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States. [1] Iqbal Bhatkal became the first IM leader whose name the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) added to the list of most wanted by the Indian government (Times of India, September 20, 2011). Because of his religious background, Iqbal Bhatkal, 42, has emerged as the top ideologue of the IM. He is known to have masterminded some of the terrorist attacks in India that resulted in heavy casualties including the Mumbai train blasts as well as the Hyderabad, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi serial blasts (Hindustan Times, April 8).

Iqbal Bhatkal was born in the South Indian fishing town of Bhatkal in the Uttara Kannada district of the Indian state of Karnataka, which is where he spent his early life. The name of the town of his birth later became part of his name. Unlike his younger brother, Iqbal Bhatkal was not a bright student. He failed to get a diploma in Construction Technology although he made 18 attempts (Times of India [India] July 17, 2011). Iqbal Bhatkal changed his field and began studying Unani (Greek) medicine, also known as Islamic medicine. However, he became interested in religious studies at an early age. [2] He started taking part in the activities of the Islamic movement Tablighi Jamaat as a young man. Iqbal used the Tablighi Jamaat to network among Islamists (Deccan Herald, February 15, 2010). Later he started attending lectures by Dr. Zakir Naik, a leading Muslim who founded the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), [3] a Muslim NGO, which shares ideology with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). It was listed as an approved resource for theological knowledge on the LeT website. Dr. Zakir Naik's video lectures seem to have had a deep impact on Iqbal Bhatkal and led him to violence. The IM carried a series of bombs blasts from across India that killed hundreds of people in 2005. [4]

The IM sent their manifesto by email to the Indian media minutes before they carried out terrorist attacks outside the court buildings in the Indian cities of Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad on November 23, 2007. That was the first time the group emerged on the Indian jihadi scene. [5] It is generally believed that Iqbal wrote the manifesto that was sent to the media (Hindustan Times, April 8).  The IM's manifesto clearly reflects the Pakistani military's thinking on India, as is evident from the following paragraph in the manifesto: 

We call you, O Hindus, O enemies of Allah, to take an honest stance with yourselves lest another attack of Ibn-e-Qasim sends shivers down your spines, lest another Ghauri shakes your foundations, and lest another Ghaznawi massacres you, proving your blood to be the cheapest of all mankind! Have you forgotten your history full of subjugation, humiliation, and insult? Or do you want us to repeat it again? Take heed before it is too late! [6]

 According to some reports, Iqbal Bhatkal and Riyaz Ismail Shahbandri (a.k.a. Riyaz Bhatkal) are now based in Karachi and run the "Karachi project" in close collaboration with the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the LeT. [7] The IM are currently focusing on India, but they have a Pan-Islamist world view. The IM is closely linked with LeT of Pakistan and other Pan-Islamic Islamist groups.  With the passage of time, they are likely to shift their focus beyond India. The IM could not have developed into a robust terrorist group without support from the LeT and the ISI. Thus, the Indian terrorism problem is part of the Pakistan problem. The Indian terrorism issue cannot be resolved without Pakistan stopping the use of jihad as an instrument of its defense policy. As long as Pakistan remains the epicenter of jihad, groups like IM and terrorists like Bhatkal will keep springing up.

Arif Jamal is an independent security and terrorism expert and author of "Shadow War – The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir."

Notes:

[1] Sanchita Bhattacharya, "Indian Mujahideen: Mutating Threat," South Asia Intelligence Review, Volume 10, Issue 45, May 14, 2012.  Available at www.satp.org/satporgtp/sair/Archives/sair10/10_45.htm. 

[2] Praveen Swami, "Riyaz Bhatkal and the origins of the Indian Mujahideen" in CTC Sentinel, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, May 3, 2010. Available at www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/riyaz-bhatkal-and-the-origins-of-the-indian-mujahidin.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Swami, op cit.

[6] "The Rise of Jihad, Revenge of Gujarat," Islamic Terrorism in India, August 7, 2008. Available at islamicterrorism.wordpress.com/2008/08/07/full-text-of-indian-mujahideen-14-pages-email-on-terror-attacks/.

[7] Samruti Koppikar, "IM-Printed," Outlook India, August 1, 2011. Available at www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx.

Copyright notice: © 2010 The Jamestown Foundation

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