Authorities warn that the Indian Mujahideen may be regaining strength even as it is lying low.
Is the Indian Mujahideen, a so-called "home grown" terrorist outfit, dying? Already dead? Or is it just regrouping, training new recruits and branching into different parts of the country?
"The signs are extremely ominous," India's junior minister for internal security, Jitendra Singh, told Khabar South Asia.
In December, Delhi police brought seven alleged IM operatives before a judge, claiming they had confessed to involvement in the planning and execution of the attack on New Delhi's 17th century mosque, the Jama Masjid, on September 19th, 2010.
On that day, two gunmen on motorbikes blazed into the mosque compound shooting automatic pistols. There were no deaths, but two members of a Taiwanese film crew were injured.
Hours later, a major disaster was averted when a bomb was discovered in a car parked just 200 meters (656 feet) from the mosque.
The suspects were arrested in the southern cities of Bangalore and Chennai on November 30th, 2011. At the time, it was claimed that the seven men – Mohammed Qatil Siddqui, Gohar Aziz Khumani, Mohammed Adil, Abdur Rehman, Mohammed Irshad, Gayur Ahmed Jamali and Aftab Alam – were linked to other high-profile attacks that rocked Indian cities in 2008.
Singh said the arrested men provided information about operations planned by IM's pan-India network. They also revealed the address of an arms stockpile in the Indian capital. Delhi police later raided the location, seizing two AK-47 rifles, ammunition, explosives and detonators.
The Indian Mujahideen (IM) burst into public consciousness in 2008 when the hitherto unknown network claimed responsibility, via emails to newspapers, for deadly explosions in public places in states as diverse as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bangalore, Gujrat and Delhi, that killed scores and injured hundreds.
Shishir Gupta, a journalist who authored a well-received book on the group, believes that since most of the important leaders of IM are on the run, it can safely be surmised that the group is not dead. "I see them regrouping and setting up new modules in new cities," he said.
Before Hindu fundamentalist groups massacred more than 700 Muslims in the western state of Gujarat in 2002, there was no home-grown terrorist movement in India. Pakistan-backed groups, comprising Jihadists from all over the Islamic world, had been targeting India, particularly Indian Kashmir, since the mid-1990s.
After the Gujarat carnage, disaffected Muslim youth decided to inject new life into the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which had been banned in India in the days following the 9/11 attacks on the United States. To date, no evidence has been found to justify the prolonged ban, according to SIMI's legal counsel, S.M. Khan.
Indian intelligence believes the IM is a loose network linked to Islamic organizations, including SIMI.
"The IM is not one, cohesive entity. It is the sum of many parts, not necessarily known to each other," said Sushil K.Sharma, an intelligence officer.
Poverty and discrimination are factors in the existence of such groups, according to Irfan Engineer, head of an NGO that runs employment programs among Mumbai's slum-dwellers.
"India has the world's second largest Muslim population and this segment of the population is perhaps the poorest. Naturally, in their daily lives, the vast majority of India's Muslims face discrimination and violence at the hand of the often brutal Indian state," Engineer said. "This phenomenon is throwing poor Muslims into the arms of the fundamentalists."
Ilyas Kashmiri, the Pakistani-Kashmiri Al-Qaeda operative killed in a recent drone attack in South Waziristan, apparently enjoyed iconic status in the IM. His death last June is believed to have caused disarray in its top rungs.
Intelligence sleuths say IM's cadres have recently taken steps to ensure Ilyas Kashmiri is lionized, including the formation of the so-called "Bullet 313" group inspired by Kashmiri’s "Brigade 313."
This is typical of terrorist organizations, Sharma said: when an established group or individual is disbanded or liquidated, emerging outfits take it upon themselves to create and perpetuate their legacy.
Several IM leaders are at large, supposedly in Dubai. Those already arrested include Safdar Nagori, Mufti Abu Bashir and Quayamuddin Kapadia.
When the existence of the IM was first detected, the media expressed surprise that its leadership comprised educated youth.
"We are dealing with extremely educated and well-disposed kids now," R.K. Agarwal, an intelligence officer, told Khabar South Asia. "Bullet 313 has established modules in a large number of south Indian states. We expect the worst," he said.