The Special Cell of the Delhi Police on Tuesday said it had arrested a suspected key Indian Mujahideen operative and the terrorist group’s operational chief in the country, Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu, from Naxalbari in Darjeeling district of West Bengal.
The announcement came three days after the arrest of another alleged top IM operative, Pakistani national Zia-ur-Rehman alias Waqas, from Ajmer in Rajasthan. Security agencies believe the two arrests are a huge setback to IM as most of its senior members across the country are now in custody.
Police said 24-year-old Tehseen was hiding near the India-Nepal border in the Pani Tankhi area of Naxalbari and the Union home ministry has arranged for a chartered aircraft to bring him to the capital from Bagdogra airport in West Bengal.
Tehseen, whose name has figured in several bomb attacks in recent years, including blasts in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Varanasi, is believed to have taken over the reins of IM after the arrest of its co-founder Yasin Bhatkal last August.
S N Shrivastava, Special Commissioner of Police (Special Cell), said Tehseen was arrested after Waqas was questioned. Waqas was arrested Saturday morning from outside the Ajmer railway station while he was allegedly on his way to meet three associates in Rajasthan.
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“Tehseen is being brought to the city by our men. It is too early to divulge what he was planning. As of now, we can say that he was running the operations in India and was the key link between IM and the several splinter groups of SIMI. Since he was the head of IM, we will now verify the claims made by the four operatives arrested recently,” Shrivastava said.
Police claimed Tehseen had fled to Jaipur after Bhatkal’s arrest and stayed in the house of the three operatives arrested a few days back. He is later believed to have stayed with Waqas in Munnar in Kerala. He is also said to have fled to Nepal for a month, before returning to the country a few days ago.
Police suspect he was trying to flee either to Bangladesh or Nepal but had asked Waqas and the three operatives to meet in Rajasthan for a terror strike. The three operatives are said to have told police that Waqas and Tehseen had discussed avenging the 2011 Gopalgarh riot in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan.
Tehseen, who carried a reward of more than Rs 50 lakh, belongs to Darbhanga in Bihar. He was allegedly introduced to Bhatkal by Gayur Jamali and learnt to make bombs from IM operative Qateel Siddique.
He is suspected to have received Waqas and Asadullah Akhtar, who was arrested with Yasin Bhatkal, in Katmandu last year.
He is also suspected to have planned the bomb blasts in Varanasi, Mumbai and Hyderabad since 2010. Waqas and the other suspects are believed to have told interrogators that although Tehseen had not been in IM for too long, he had made it to the top fast and impressed the Bhatkal brothers in Pakistan. He was allegedly managing all modules in India after Bhatkal was arrested.
During his preliminary interrogation, Tehseen is believed to have claimed that two Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives from Pakistan had joined IM recently and had infiltrated into Uttar Pradesh to carry out fidayeen attacks. Sources said the claim would be verified and the UP ATS alerted.