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Latest terror toolkit in India: Chinese cellphones

Sep 13, 2008 12:33 AM IST India India

New Delhi: Chinese mobiles are fancy, state-of-the-art and dirt cheap for they are mostly copycats of big brands.

However, they are also a suspected terrorist toolkit now, which has prompted the Intelligence Bureau and Home Ministry to recommend last month that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) should ban the sale of most Chinese mobiles in India since they don't come with any proper International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.

The IMEI is a unique 17 or 15-digit code used to identify an individual mobile phone. The number of any particular handset gets registered with the service provider as soon as one makes a call.

Mobile handsets are issued in bulk by Chinese mobile phone companies in lots of 100, 1,000 and 5,000 with a common IMEI number, which makes it difficult for security agencies to track actual calls made from any of these phones. And even if you track down one of them, the IMEI number might have been copied from such a legitimate handset.

Sources in the Home Ministry have told CNN-IBN that the DoT has also been directed to tell services providers to stop giving connections to mobile sets without IMEI numbers and a notification is soon on its way.

National President Indian Cellular Association, Pankaj Mohindroo says, "It's simply like a car without a number plate. It has no identity and no parentage."

Sources indicate that the intelligence agencies were forced to focus on Chinese mobiles after the deadly Ahmedabad blasts. One of the blast suspects - picked up from Baroda - had used 50 different sim cards on three different mobiles.

If he had used a mobile without an IMEI number, the investigating officers realised that they would have never been able to track him down.

Recently, intelligence agencies had found a few miscreants using Chinese mobiles on the Indo-Pak border in Gujarat. They say that such mobiles are becoming popular not only with terrorists but with smugglers and those involved in human and drug trafficking.