A SIMI-linked suspect in the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts, who was arrested a fortnight ago by the National Investigation Agency as the main accused in the December 2014 Church Street blast of Bengaluru, is among the latest that investigators have linked to the network of Islamic State operatives and sympathisers.
Alamzeb Afridi, 34, was arrested by Telangana police in Bengaluru on January 23, just a day after the NIA had rounded up 14 persons from Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Bengaluru, Mangalore and Tumkur for being IS sympathisers. Afridi was taken into custody by the NIA on January 29 and identified as the man who had carried out the bombing in Bengaluru.
It has now emerged, investigators said, that Afridi visited Hyderabad a few times to meet Mohammed Nafees Khan alias Abu Zarrar, 24, one of the 14 arrested in their crackdown on an emerging IS-affiliated Indian group called the Junood al-Khilafa-e-Hind. Afridi had been wanted for nearly seven years before his name came up while agencies were tracking the activities of Nafees. Nafees has emerged as a key organiser of interactions among IS sympathisers in India, along with Mumbai’s Muttabir Shaikh and Mangalore’s Najmul Huda, in an effort allegedly coordinated by an Indian Mujahideen operative based abroad and identified currently by security agencies as Shafi Armar from Bhatkal.
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Sources said investigations have indicated links between Armar and Alamzeb Afridi too. The Ahmedabad blasts for which Afridi is wanted, incidentally, was allegedly carried out by an Indian Mujahideen-SIMI collaboration.
Following the multiple arrests, sources had said that the identities of those in the group had emerged in the course of surveillance on the activities of Nafees. They indicated that Afridi was detained close on the heels of the IS arrests after it emerged that he was trying to flee. Investigations have reportedly revealed that Nafees and Khalid alias Rizwan Ahmed Ali Nawazuddin, 20, of Mumbai travelled to Bengaluru to motivate six people they had identified as being keen on travelling to Syria to join the IS.
The possibility of the convergence of former SIMI and IM elements under an Islamic State umbrella to radicalise and recruit is being seen as the possible key to the decision by the security establishment to carry out the recent sweep of a section of IS sympathisers.
Afridi had been in the custody of NIA for 10 days in the Bengaluru Church Street blast case, and sent to judicial custody at the end of his police custody on February 8. Afridi has reportedly claimed to have carried out the Bengaluru bomb attack on his own by building a bomb using online resources and past experience on the directions of a handler. That handler is suspected now to be Armar and not Afridi’s mentor Touqeer alias Abdus Subhan Qureshi, 46, of the SIMI.