NEW DELHI – Investigators unraveling the plot behind the February 13 terrorist
bombing of an Israeli Embassy car in New Delhi are believed to have stumbled
upon interesting details.
The revelations have come via comparing notes
with the Bangkok police, scrutinizing telephone calls and interrogating Syed
Ahmad Mohammed Kazmi, the 50-year-old journalist who was arrested last Tuesday
and charged the following day for his alleged involvement in the
Sources close to the investigation say Kazmi was likely in touch
with the Iranians who plotted the bombing of Israeli Embassy targets in Bangkok.
His telephone number is reported to have been found scribbled on a piece of
paper seized from a hotel room where Rohani Leila, the Iranian woman terrorist
suspect for whom the police are looking, was staying.
Leila is one of the
three Iranians who were allegedly planning to bomb Israeli Embassy targets in
Bangkok. While the key conspirator blew up his legs when a bomb he was carrying
went off and is now in police custody, she may have fled Thailand.
sources said a scrutiny of Kazmi’s phone records indicate he made and received
calls to the group in Bangkok.
The records also indicate calls between
him and those behind the New Delhi attack.
“There were six to seven of
them,” the source said. The motorcycle-riding terrorist who planted the sticky
bomb on an embassy car, wounding Tal Yehoshua Koren, wife of the Israeli defense
attaché, is believed to have fled India.
Investigators are working on
possible contacts between Kazmi and the Quds Force, a special unit of the
Iranian Revolutionary Guards. He is also said to have been in touch with
Lebanon’s Hezbollah, although the level of contact is not known.
could always explain that as a journalist who wrote on Iranian and Middle East
affairs for various Urdu-language publications in India, these were professional
contacts. He was a regular contributor of news and features from India, related
to Muslim affairs, to Iran’s IRNA official news agency.
He also wrote for
Milli Gazette, a weekly journal published in Delhi aligned with the
Jamaat-e-Islami organization and known for its vitriolic anti-Israel views that
would qualify as anti-Semitism if India had a hate-speech law. Milli Gazette is
known for promoting Islamism and endorsing Islamic radicalism in the Middle
East, more so since the Arab Spring.
A day after the February 13 attack,
the editor of Milli Gazette, Zafarul Islam Khan, while participating in
television discussions, sought to describe the bombing as a tit-for-tat
response, blaming Israel for bringing grief upon itself. Since Kazmi’s arrest,
Khan has been mobilizing support for the man who the police believe holds the
key to cracking the case.
Investigators are said to have gathered
sufficient evidence to prove Kazmi’s role as a facilitator, helping the bomber
with conducting a reconnaissance of the area around the Israeli Embassy using a
scooter that has been found at his residence.
He may have also gathered
crucial information about daily arrivals and departures of embassy staff by
strolling along the sidewalk across the street from the embassy.
Indian, Kazmi wouldn’t have attracted the attention of security personnel posted
at the embassy gate. Even if stopped and questioned after being spotted once too
often, he could have flashed his Government of India press accreditation card,
which works like a magic wand in New Delhi, and walked away without having to
His being an Indian journalist possessing the coveted
government press card and a command of Urdu would make Kazmi ideal as both a
contact for Middle East missions in New Delhi and a local facilitator for those
behind the bombing, the conspiracy which investigators say was “hatched abroad”
– an indication of Iran’s probable involvement.
The press card gave Kazmi
unrestricted access to ministries and other important establishments and
officials in Delhi.
That and the fact that he wrote for influential
Urdu-language publications (and also for Milli Gazette, which is published in
English and is considered to reflect the thinking of a significant section of
India’s Muslim intellectual elite) made him what embassies refer to as an
In Kazmi’s case, he would be considered an asset by embassies
wanting to gauge Muslim opinion (which is politically important in India),
disseminate information about countries and their policies that figure
prominently in Muslim discourse and debate, and gather community feedback on
these countries and their policies. Two countries that zeroed in on Kazmi are
Iran and Syria.
He was known to be a frequent visitor to the Iranian and
the Syrian embassies. He was feted by both missions. Kazmi visited
Iran “at least seven to eight times” in 2011, sources
Investigators are of the view that the conspiracy to bomb
Israeli Embassy targets was hatched in Iran in early 2011.
Ten days after
the bombing, Kazmi went to Syria at the invitation of the Syrian Embassy. He was
part of a delegation of journalists taken on a sponsored visit to be briefed
about recent developments in that country. The expectation clearly was that the
journalists would file reports justifying President Bashar Assad’s strong-arm
measures to contain the revolt against him.
A senior journalist who was a
member of that delegation recalled Kazmi making impassioned comments in support
of the Iran-backed regime in Damascus.
“It was weird. He sounded like an
ideologue of the regime,” he said.
Another journalist associated with the
Urdu-language media in Delhi remembers Kazmi as “someone who is ideologically
committed to Iran and its worldview, especially in regard to Israel and
Many of those who have interacted with Kazmi are surprised that he
stands accused as a conspirator involved with the February 13
“He was very passionate and ideologically committed. Who would
have thought he would go to this extent?” one of them wondered.
fraternity in Delhi, which is huge and diverse, is taken aback by Kazmi’s
arrest. This is the first time that a journalist – and in this case one
accredited to the government and who was considered “safe” enough to present
Urdu news bulletins on Doordarshan, the public broadcaster, whose contents are
strictly monitored – has been arrested on charges of terrorism. The immediate
impact of this is likely to be felt in the form of the much-coveted government
press card losing some of its magical powers.