Lashkar terror threat to north Indian refineries

Vol 15, PW 19 (05 Apr 12) People & Policy

Reliance’s 60m t/y twin refineries at Jamnagar in Gujarat and HPCL Mittal Energy’s new 9m t/y Bhatinda refinery in Punjab could be on the radar of Islamist terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), according to intelligence reports.

Internal spy agency Intelligence Bureau (IB) - India's equivalent of UK’s MI5 - believes both refineries could soon be the target of terrorist attacks as they lie near the tense border with Pakistan. “Oil industry installations and oil pipelines in India continue to be high on LeT’s agenda,” wrote IB joint director AK Shukla on March 16, in a letter to oil ministry joint secretary refineries LN Gupta, and home ministry joint secretary internal security LD Jha.

“LeT operatives are collecting information on installations and pipelines in the oil sector, including the Reliance refinery at Jamnagar.” Shukla says the LeT could also target oil and gas facilities near Amritsar, Bhatinda and elsewhere in Punjab, a state which bore the brunt of the violent partition of India after independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

“In light of the intelligence," adds Shukla, "the oil ministry and home ministry may want to ‘sensitise’ the heads of the concerned installations as well as the state police to strengthen security arrangements." Oil ministry officials have forwarded the IB alert to Reliance and HPCL Mittal.

“We alerted companies with facilities at Jamnagar and Bhatinda after receiving the IB input,” confirms an oil ministry source. “This matter is serious.

We have asked them to consult the local police.” LeT is one of the most active militant Islamist terrorist organisations in South Asia, operating mainly from Pakistan.

Based near Lahore, the group was behind the 2001 attack on parliament in Delhi and the coordinated 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai that left 164 dead and 308 injured.