The spate of arrests of senior Indian Mujahideen operatives in recent months was the result of a long-drawn intelligence operation by Indian agencies, which has, in the process, uncovered an ambitious Pakistan-sponsored terror effort plotted in collusion with Indian fugitives in the aftermath of the November 2008 Mumbai attack.
The certainty of this plot was established after RAW, India’s external intelligence agency, made successful inroads into the network. As it emerges, a key fugitive among the IM leaders may have decided to switch loyalties in exchange for favours for his kin in India.
It was this channel that eventually revealed the whereabouts of Waqas and Tehseen alias Monu, sources said.
It was also responsible for giving Indian sleuths a heads-up on the two Pakistani terrorists — Faheem Mengal and Abdul Wahid Rind — nabbed from Gorakhpur late last month. The two have, however, indicated that three more Pakistani terrorists were also part of the plan and could still be sent to India.
The plan, sources said, was to launch simultaneous attacks in the run-up to the general elections – one as retaliation for the communal riots in Gopalgarh in Rajasthan, and the other in response to the Muzaffarnagar riots.
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While members of both modules were in touch with IM founder Riyaz Bhatkal, neither knew about the other’s plan. Tehseen, however, was on his way out of India after his handlers took the decision that there was too much heat on him. However, Indian agencies were on to him as he left for Nepal on his way to Pakistan.
Based on what has been gathered over the past few years through inputs and interrogation, the plan began to unfold sometime in 2009 when all Indian fugitives in Pakistan, who have enjoyed the patronage of intelligence agencies such as the ISI, were shifted to Karachi.
This included Fayyaz Kagazi who came from Jeddah; Farahtullah Ghori, who was participating in some effort in Sudan, who flew back via Saudi Arabia; Tunda, who came from Lahore and Mohammed ‘Bada’ Sajid from Muzaffarabad.
By the end of 2009, sources said, nearly 90 per cent of Indian fugitives were parked in Karachi. Others such as the Bhatkal brothers were already there.
Within the ISI, this was controlled out of the office of the DDG(S) and a special unit of this office was set up in Karachi under a Col Abdullah, who is said to have figured in several conversations. The objective, sources said, was to let these fugitives recruit and establish modules within India, and then help by way of one or two better trained Pakistani jehadis so that the actions are effective.
Mohammed Adil was one such Pakistani asset who was nabbed when the Darbhanga module was busted. This, sources said, had the Pakistan establishment quite upset because that exposed foreign links.
So much so that Col Abdullah even conducted raids and seized some communication equipment of IM leaders in Karachi, a fact Yasin Bhatkal is learnt to have confirmed.
With Pakistan under constant international pressure, insiders said, IM’s handlers decided to divide the Karachi group into two – the Bhatkal group and the Azamgarh group.
The latter comprising Amir Raza Khan, Mirza Shadab Beig, Shahnawaz Alam, Bada Sajid and Shafi were moved to Quetta and Indian agencies believe this was done to make the case that this group was trying to collaborate with outfits which were also acting against Pakistan.
This was emerging as the second Karachi Project but it appears to have taken flight, according to Indian agencies, after Maj Gen Sajjad Rasool took over as the DG in-charge. He was earlier posted in Bangladesh and on taking over this job, placed a Col Ghazi as the in-charge in Karachi.
This was when Riyaz Bhatkal began to expand his operational network. The description Indian agencies have is that he has a large room of laptop computers which are dedicated for compartmentalised communication with several active modules.
Similarly, GPRS services on different cellphone numbers are used to contact key members. Mostly, as it has emerged in interrogation reports, popular web chat apps such as Nimbuzz and Palchat were used extensively. Facebook proved to be the best recruiting ground, the sources added.
The extensive use of the Internet also had Indian agencies working double time. It was during this period that Indian agencies made some important breakthroughs, one that also confirmed the involvement of the ISI as the plot unfolded.