Indian arrested in Delhi attack visited Iran, Syria

Syed Ahmad Mohammed Kazmi was likely in touch with the Iranians who plotted the bombing of Israeli targets in Bangkok.

New Delhi terror arrest 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
New Delhi terror arrest 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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 attack.
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.
The 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.
Kazmi 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.
As an 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 explain anything.
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 “asset.”
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 revealed.
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 Jews.”
Many of those who have interacted with Kazmi are surprised that he stands accused as a conspirator involved with the February 13 bombing.
“He was very passionate and ideologically committed. Who would have thought he would go to this extent?” one of them wondered.
The media 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.