Saturday, September 09, 2006

E-mails come in handy for Maoists

E-mails come in handy for Maoists

K. Srinivas Reddy

Technological advances have come as a morale booster

# Developing rocket launcher technology for 4 years
# `Dead letter box' system makes interception difficult

HYDERABAD: Technology coupled with innovation can be a lethal combination, as Maoists have proved in Andhra Pradesh.

If e-mail comes in handy for them to flash messages from solar-powered laptops, the modern wireless communication sets are used to detonate landmines. It is not just the AK-47 rifle that provides a lethal advantage to the rebels; indigenously developed, shoulder-fired rocket launchers have been added to their ever-growing arsenal.

Baffling seizure

The seizure of 875 rockets and 28 rocket launchers in Prakasam and Mahabubnagar districts by the police on Friday has baffled authorities, who suspect that the Maoists were indeed planning to launch military assaults on security forces on a very large scale.

The authorities believe that the rebels could be planning a wave of simultaneous attacks on police stations and other high-security targets, to keep up the sagging morale of the naxalite cadres in the backdrop of serious reversals the revolutionary movement suffered in the recent times.

With the Maoists scaling down their level of movement and `tactically' confining the cadres to jungles in Andhra Pradesh, the recent technological advances have come as a morale-booster.

The Maoists were trying for the last four years to develop and improve the rocket launcher technology on their own.

It was in the Malkangiri forests of Orissa in 2002 that the police found that the Maoists had in their possession the designs of rocket launchers.

In a joint operation in the Kalimela forests (Orissa) in June 2003, the Orissa and Andhra Pradesh police busted a weapon-making unit, where designs and some prototypes of rockets were found. The police, however, dismissed the prototype as crude.

A top naxalite leader Sakhamuri Appa Rao, member of the Maoist AP State Committee, is believed to have argued for technological improvement of weapons. He convinced the Central Committee to allocate sufficient funds for developing IEDs and rocket launchers and for procuring state-of-the art wireless communication sets.

It was Mr. Rao, who put forth the innovation to use wireless sets for detonating landmines, hitherto done using a camera flash connected through a wire to the mine. But he found that advanced wireless sets (Icomm make) provided the advantage of communicating only with a particular set .

Called the `handshake,' the two Icomm sets are fed with a four-digit password. At the press of the button, the second set gets activated. It is connected to an electronic detonator embedded in gelatin stuffed in a suitcase.

If these are two recent technological advances, the Maoists made rapid strides in improving their communication. The rebels are known to use laptops, powered by solar batteries, to use e-mail.

They are found using a `dead letter box' system, where the sender and the receiver share a common e-mail ID and password.

The message is not sent but stored in the drafts folder. The recipient will log in to the e-mail ID and check it. This system, the police say, makes interception difficult because they can intercept only mails sent and not saved `drafts'.

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