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Glimpses into the mind of suicide-bomber

Praveen Swami

Internet records provide insights into likely cause for failure of three car bombs assembled by Kafeel Ahmed

NEW DELHI: Indian investigators have begun to piece together a profile of Glasgow airport suicide bomber Kafeel Ahmed from the thousands of files he stored on his hard disk.

Material discovered on Ahmed’s computer shows the United Kingdom-trained engineer followed campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine with great attention, and often discussed current events with others in Islamist chat rooms on the Internet. Ahmed’s computer has also provided insights into his political work during the months he spent in Bangalore before returning to the United Kingdom in May 2006.

Some of the material on Ahmed’s hard disk is graphic in the extreme. One video he downloaded from the Internet shows a Russian soldier captured by Chechen terrorists being brutally tortured with a knife. Other files on Ahmed’s computer include speeches delivered by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden. By contrast, there is little material on Islamist causes in India.

Ahmed’s Internet records have also provided investigators insights into probable cause for the failure of the three car bombs he assembled. Based on a study of hundreds of bomb designs he had downloaded from the Internet, Ahmed linked a household fuel-gas cylinder to a plastic medical syringe filled with potassium chlorate. A bulb sealed inside the syringe was, in turn, wired to a mobile phone.

When someone called the mobile phone planted inside the bomb, the electrical current delivered to its ringer was intended to heat the bulb and initiate the combustion of the potassium chlorate. However, the electrical current delivered to the bulb proved inadequate to set off an explosion.

Police sources said the untested bomb design suggested Ahmed had no contact with trained terrorists, who would have told him the devices, though theoretically-robust, were unlikely to work in real-world conditions.

Exhaustive searches of Ahmed’s travel records in and out of the U.K., the sources said, had failed to substantiate media reports that the Glasgow suicide bomber had travelled to West Asia. Nor has scrutiny of visa records backed claims by some Bangalore residents that two or more foreign nationals visited Ahmed in the weeks before to the Glasgow bombings.

However, Ahmed’s hard disk shows he was keen to use a Bangalore-based political platform, Discover Islam, to draw educated young city Muslims to the causes he supported. Ahmed, the computer records show, organised at least five meetings to discuss current events and Islamist politics.

While he published thousands of pamphlets to publicise the meetings, they drew few people.

Ahmed’s computer records show he hoped to win attention for Discover Islam by inviting a prominent Mumbai-based television evangelist to address the group. His foundation is amongst the largest Indian platforms of the neoconservative Salafi sect.

While the evangelist has unequivocally condemned terrorism on several occasions, his hardline theology has proved attractive to many Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives, including at least two men charged with participating in the Mumbai serial bombings of 2006.

The foundation features on the website of the Lashkar’s parent organisation, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, as an approved source of doctrinal information.

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