Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Waqas alias Zia Ur Rehman (24), who was arrested from Ajmer on Saturday, had been tasked by IM founder Riyaz Bhatkal with experimenting with new IEDs using magnets.
According to officials, the chief bombmaker of the terror outfit, Waqas had been working actively with several IM modules in the country. Police claim to have seized three mobile phones used by Waqas, including to stay in touch with Riyaz Bhatkal.
Apart from possibly elections, Waqas was reportedly also planning to target foreign tourists in Rajasthan, particularly Israeli nationals visiting Pushkar.
He suffers from a slight paralysis in the face.
The son of a farmer from Mustafabad, in the Toba Tek Singh district of Punjab in Pakistan, Waqas had been scouted as a bright talent as early as 2004-06, when he was in his early teens. His father Jalauddin had migrated to Pakistan from Phagwara during Partition.
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His family reportedly disapproved when Waqas took to jihad. His father is believed to have now joined the Tableeghi Jamaat. Waqas reportedly tried to visit his ailing mother in Pakistan last year but could not due to the increased surveillance on his family.
During his college days at Faislabad, where he was pursuing a diploma in food technology, his peers reportedly introduced him to audio-taped lectures of Maulana Masood Azhar, said a police official.
In 2009, he allegedly came in contact with a Taj Mohammed who collected donations on behalf of the Jamat-ud Dawa. It was Taj who allegedly later arranged for his 21-day arms training.
In initial interrogation, Waqas has also named one Abdur Rehman belonging to the Jaish-e-Mohammed as having arranged for his training in Waziristan Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). There he was allegedly trained in preparation of IEDs. Following this, he has said, he was asked by Rehman to go to Karachi and meet Riyaz Bhatkal.
Officials said Waqas arrived in Kathmandu in September 2010, with instructions from Riyaz Bhatkal to enter India. He was the second Pakistani national after Mohd Ajmal to have been roped into IM, which largely consisted of Indian operatives. He was also known by the aliases ‘Javii’ and Javed.
Along with Waqas on the flight to Kathmandu was Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, who was arrested along with Yasin Bhatkal last year.
Yasin Bhatkal had told his interrogators that Waqas was “good in making electric timers but could not be trusted”. According to Yasin Bhatkal, the top IM leadership based in Pakistan never had much confidence in Waqas and considered him “lazy” and “foolish”.
Waqas and Haddi were reportedly received in Kathmandu and introduced to each other by Tehseen Aktar alias Monu. In initial interrogations, Waqas has told officials that after Yasin Bhatkal’s arrest, Monu was heading the IM in India. He has also said he had been instructed by Monu not to chat from a cyber cafe and use only a smart phone.
Soon after crossing over to India in 2010, Waqas was taken to Darbhanga in Bihar where he allegedly met Yasin Bhatkal and other operatives. Within a week, they carried out a blast at Jama Masjid, Delhi, just before the Commonwealth Games.
He has reportedly confessed to being the first to experiment with a hydrogen peroxide bomb, used in the 2010 Varanasi blasts.
Apart from IM, Waqas is said to have affiliations to terror outfits in Pakistan such as the LeT and Jaish.
His arrest in Ajmer enroute from Mumbai is an indication, officials believe, that IM still has a strong presence in Maharashtra. He had stayed in Mumbai for just a couple of days before reportedly deciding to meet his associates in Rajasthan for another terror strike.
Since he was listed as most wanted and his photographs had been circulated, Waqas had cut his hair short.