Sunday, August 3, 2008




With five days to go before the grand inauguration of the Beijing Olympics on August 8,2008, the scenario relating to possible securitythreats to the Olympic Games is as follows:

TIBETAN GROUPS IN TIBET OR OUTSIDE: They have been quiet for the last one month. There is so far no information or indication of likely demonstrations or incidents of violence. However, the authorities of the Government of India should strengthen physical security outside Chinese diplomatic and consular missions and other major Chinese establishments in India to prevent any incidents by angry sections of the Tibetan youth.Low to medium probability of fresh demonstrations in Lhasa.

UIGHUR GROUPS:Medium to high probability of acts of violence, including terrorism, by Uighur elements in Xinjiang, the Central Asian Republics, Pakistan and Turkey. Uighurs do not have a demonstrated capability for major acts of terrorism in Beijing, Hong Kong anf Shanghai, where the main events of the Olympics will be held, but have a high capability in Xinjiang, the CARs and Pakistan.. The main threat, if any, will be from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which operates from North Waziristan in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. On July 25,2008, a private security consultancy agency of the US claimed to have intercepted a three-minutes Olympics-specific video message by one Sayfallah, who claimed to belong to an organisation called the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) in which he threatened acts of violence directed against the Olympics. He claimed that his organisation was responsible for the explosions in buses in Shanghai in May last and in Kunming in Yunnan in July. There is no way of verifying his claim. It is intriguing that neither he nor his organisation made any such claim immediately after the explosions took place. He said that his group is planning to attack Chinese cities"using previously unused methods". He said: " This is our last warning to China and the rest of the world. The viewers and athletes, especially those who are Muslim, who plan to go to the Olympics should change their plans and not go to China. The Turkistan Islamic Party plans military attacks on people, offices, arenas, and other activities that are connected to the Chinese Olympic Games." Some Western analysts have said that the TIP is identical with the ETIM, but there is no evidence in support of this. However, this message, even if its purpose is assumed to be to create fear and nervousness, shows that sections of Uighurs in Xinjiang as well as in Pakistan, the CARs and Turkey have been thinking of some incidents before and during the Olympics to draw attention to their cause. Likely threats from them have already been taken seriously by the Chinese authorities and have been factored into in their security planning.

PRO-UIGHUR GROUPS: In this category will come the Chechens, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union or Group, which is also an organisation of Uzbecks, the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Likely threats from them can also be categorised as medium to high. The Chechens are angry with China because of its anti-terrorism co-operation with Russia. The IMU and the IJU have close networking with the ETIM and have been training their cadres in North Waziristan. Recent reports from the tribal areas of Pakistan speak of the arrival of some Uighurs from Turkey in the IJU camps to undergo training. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have been supportive of the ETIM. Unlike the Uighur groups, none of the pro-Uighur groups have held out in public any Olympics-related threats. This should not mean that likely threats from them can be discounted.

JUNDULLAHS FROM THE UMMAH: Jundullah means a Soldier of Allah. Jundullahs are angry young Muslims, not belonging to any organisation, who give vent to their anger by indulging in acts of terrorism, including suicide terrorism. We had seen this phenomenon in the past in Chechnya and Indonesia and it has now spread to Pakistan. Most of the acts of suicide terrorism in Pakistan since the commando raid into Islamabad's Lal Masjid in July last year were committed by Jundullahs, who also attacked some Chinese nationals in Peshawar and unsuccessfully tried to attack some Chinese engineers in Hub in Balochistan. They believed that the Chinese protests over the kidnapping of some Chinese women working in Islamabad beauty parlours by students studying in the two madrasas attached to the Lal Masjid made Pervez Musharraf order the commando raid. Participants in the Olympics from the Islamic countries could turn into Jundullahs and indulge in acts of terrorism against participants from Denmark, the US and Israel. Likely threats from Jundullahs have to be taken seriously in the security planning. It can be categorised as medium to high.

2. This is the second Olympics being held since 9/11. The threat levels at the 2004 Athens Olympics were also assessed as medium to high,but the Olympics went off peacefully due to the effective security measures taken by the Greek authorities with the co-operation of thesecurity agencies of other NATO countries. The Chinese authorities have drawn from the experience of the Greek authorities andsupplemented it with their own experience and insights and put in place an effective security machinery. The entire internationalcommunity should wish them success in ensuring an incident-free Olympics. Their success in preventing any threats from the terrorists willbe an important step in the global fight against terrorism.The international community should wish them well and extend to them whateverco-operation they need. (3-8-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )