Jihad in Bombay

On Tuesday evening, eight bombs, carefully arranged to explode in sequence, exploded along the commuter railroad system of Bombay (now commonly known as Mumbai), killing at least 147 people and wounding hundreds more. Intelligence agents said that the jihad terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, or Army of the Righteous, coordinated the attacks, along with the Students Islamic Movement of India.

Bombay is India’s financial center. The bombings, according to the Hindustan Times, were “methodically executed to shock the country’s financial capital and hurl it into chaos.” Most of the bombs went off in the first-class sections of the trains, where businessmen would be congregated. All the stations in which bombs exploded were located in Bombay’s wealthy suburbs. Besides wresting Kashmir from Indian rule and establishing Islamic Sharia law there, Lashkar-e-Taiba has as one of its long-term goals the establishment of an Islamic state in India, and the subjugation of the Hindus. (One of the group’s mottos is “Killing Hindus is the way forward.”) The Indian financial class is overwhelmingly Hindu; the plotters clearly were well aware that Muslims in India generally don’t travel in first-class compartments.

While the Lashkar-e-Taiba jihadists hoped to strike a deadly blow to India’s economy with the Bombay bombings, the group apparently has numerous allies among Muslims in Western countries, who are supporting the jihad financially and in other ways. In May 2005, two men and a woman were arrested in Britain for conspiring to provide Lashkar-e-Taiba with money and weapons. Five weeks ago, on June 6, Ali Asad Chandia, a Pakistani Muslim who taught third grade at an Islamic school in Maryland, was convicted of providing support to Lashkar-e-Taiba as a member of the “Virginia jihad network.” He faces up to 45 years in prison.

Nor has Lashkar’s involvement in Western countries been only financial. Lashkar operatives sent a French convert to Islam, Willie Brigitte, to Australia, allegedly to target military bases in Sydney. Brigitte also seems to have recruited Faheem Khalid Lodhi, a jihadist recently convicted on terror charges related to his possession of bomb-making materials and maps of Australia’s electricity grid. In January 2003, a young Pakistani Muslim in Australia named Izhar ul-Haque, “fed up with Westerners,” made his way to a Lashkar training camp, but later had a change of heart.

Of course, the support for Lashkar-e-Taiba doesn’t come only from the West. In November 2003, the Daily Times of Pakistan reported that the jihadists received “millions of rupees by businessmen from Lahore’s posh and industrial areas.”

Support for Lashkar-e-Taiba is quite widespread in Pakistan. At one fundraising rally for Lashkar, a woman came up to a Lashkar representative with her two-year-old son. “I am donating him for jihad!" she exclaimed; the Lashkar operative turned her away, saying, “We appreciate your donation. But he is too young….When he would be a grown up boy, we will train him for jihad and he will earn a good name for you.” The woman responded, “I am the mother of four sons. What happens if I donate one son for jihad, he embraces martyrdom and earns heaven for all of us!”

With such attitudes quite alive in Pakistan today, the immediate condemnation of the Bombay bombings by the Pakistani government Tuesday evening is welcome, but is not nearly enough. Pakistani and Western officials need to watch the financial trail of the jihad closely – despite the best efforts of the New York Times — for Tuesday’s bombings show the end point of that trail. The sophisticated planning of the Bombay attacks and the global reach of Lashkar-e-Taiba indicate that Western authorities underestimate such a group at their own peril. Moreover, the continued proliferation of the jihad ideology that fuels Lashkar’s activities as unmistakably as does the money that pours into its coffers from Pakistan and the West also cannot be ignored indefinitely. The Bombay bombings may well establish Lashkar-e-Taiba in the public consciousness as a fearsome terror group; we may hope that this will move anti-terror officials to shed more light on its international terror-recruitment and terror-financing activities also, and move to end them.