India is one of the world's most terror-prone countries, with a death toll second only to Iraq, according to a report last year by the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington. India is at constant war with separatists and Maoists rebels. But when it comes to Islamic extremism, New Delhi has always blamed foreign influence—usually Pakistan's. With reason: the militants fighting for Kashmir's independence have extensive links to Pakistan or Bangladesh, where they've set up camps and been nurtured by local intelligence services.
Now that picture may be changing. Shortly before dusk on Sept. 13, Indian news organizations got an e-mail warning that "to dreadfully terrorize you, we are about to devastate your very first metropolitan center." Around the same time, a bomb ripped through a popular marketplace in New Delhi. Within the next hour, four more explosions hit other crowded markets, killing 24 and wounding more than 100. Three more bombs were also located and defused.
The message claimed the attacks were the work of the Indian Mujahedin (IM): a terrorist group unheard of before November 2007, when it took credit for coordinated bombings in three northern cities. The group also claimed responsibility for lethal attacks in Jaipur in May and Ahmadabad in July, and it's suspected of a similar attack in Bangalore. When the IM first appeared, experts thought it was just a front for one of India's known, foreign-sponsored terrorist outfits. But that view has since shifted, and many Indians now fear their country is developing its own, homegrown Islamic terror problem—and that jihadists are finding more and more recruits among the nation's 140 million Muslims.