Goa could be a target for Al Qaeda
By reddif.com – October 23, 2002
The bomb blast in Bali, Indonesia, that killed more than 180 people on October 13 ought to be an eye-opener for India, considering that Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda may target more such international tourist destinations.
“We have not received anything alarming from the intelligence agencies following the Bali bomb blast,” Deputy Inspector General of Police (Goa) Karnal Singh said.
With all its tourist traffic, Goa is considered a soft target for cross-border terrorism. The Hindu-dominated state with a minuscule Muslim population is famous for its sandy beaches and semi-Western culture. The coast, the most popular tourist destination in the state, is predominantly Christian.
Like Bali, Goa has a total population of only 1.3 million while 1.2 million tourists visit it every year, mainly in the peak season from October to January. Already, tourists from all over the world have started flocking to the state.
Along with tourism come all kind of criminal activities, including the illegal sale of drugs, illegally organised rave parties, and even paedophilia rings, mostly in collusion with the local police and politicians.
Over 3,000 Kashmiris also camp in the coastal belt from September to April, selling carpets and such other indigenous products. But with few customers seen at these shops, the police say that selling drugs may be their real profession.
“The terrorists taking advantage of the presence of Kashmiris in Goa cannot be denied,” DIG Singh said, but claimed that the police are keeping a watch on them as well as outsiders visiting madrassas (Islamic seminaries) in the state.
In fact, it is not just the Bali incident that should alert Indian intelligence to the need to improve security in Goa. The state has been a target in the past. Two years ago, Deendar Anjuman, an organisation that has since been banned, had organised simultaneous bomb blasts in Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Goa. A bomb was planted outside a church in the port town of Vasco.
Incidentally, bomb hoaxes have also become the order of the day. In recent days, at least five calls were made from public telephone booths that bombs had been planted in the chief minister’s car, a village that a central minister from Goa was visiting, at a private bank, Old Goa, and in the Goa Medical College Hospital. “Either it is a cranky person or somebody testing how alert the police is,” DIG Singh said.
The officer, however, does not deny that Goa is considered a safe haven for criminals since several robbers and dacoits from Moradabad, Saharanpur, and other such places in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have been found hiding here. “Following the demolition of the Babri Masjid [in December 1992], hundreds of locals from these places had gone to Pakistan. They have now come back after proper military training,” he said.
Within a month, the police are to begin organised patrolling by forming beats. The personnel on the beat will move from house to house, informing people that they will be available for any eventuality. Besides serving the people, the police expect this move to help them improve their intelligence network. In fact, Singh said, this is the best way to tackle terrorism, as terrorists always depend on local contacts.