THE Delhi Police on Saturday claimed to have foiled a terror attack in the national capital by arresting a 36-year-old alleged Islamic State operative following a late-night exchange of fire in Central Delhi’s Ridge Road area.
The police said they had recovered a pistol and two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) packed in pressure cookers from the accused, Mustakeem Khan alias Abu Yusuf, a resident of village Badhiyaa Bhaisaahi in Balrampur district of Uttar Pradesh. Married with four children, Khan runs a cosmetics shop in the village.
“He was under watch for over a year, and planned to carry out a lone wolf strike in a high-footfall area,” DCP (Special Cell) Pramod Singh Kushwah said. The two IEDs were allegedly “fully ready”, and only needed to be activated with a timer.
Later on Saturday, the police detained three persons in Badhiyaa Bhaisaahi for questioning, including one who reportedly provided material to Khan to prepare the explosives.
“On Friday evening, our team came to know Khan would be coming to the Ridge area. A trap was laid and they arrested him after six rounds of firing,” a senior police officer said.
Kushwah said Khan had planned to carry out an attack in Delhi on August 15, but could not do so due to the heavy security arrangements for Independence Day. “He thought security will be lax now,” he added.
The police also claimed Khan had prepared a vest so as to carry out a suicide attack and tested smaller IEDs near a burial ground back at his village.
As the Delhi Police arrived at Khan’s village on Saturday with him, and carried out a search of his house and shop, the residents said they found it hard to believe that the 36-year-old, who kept to himself, could be involved in terror activities. One of four sons of a farmer, Khan studied up to Class 9 and started the cosmetics shop two years ago.
“Mustakeem ran the shop on rent. He would regularly visit Lucknow to purchase goods for his shop. After the lockdown, he did not go to the city for a long time,” said a villager, Najibullah, adding that he had seen Khan last at his shop as late as Thursday.
Badhiyaa Bhaisaahi village, located around 55 km from Balrampur district headquarters, is Muslim-dominated.
Expressing surprise at the charges, another villager, Mustafa, said, “I know Mustakeem’s father Kafil Ahmed well and he is a farmer and a simple man… I never heard of any of Kafil’s sons being involved in any wrongdoing.”
The Uttar Pradesh Police, which sent a team to Khan’s village, said they were in the process of collecting details about him. “This includes his criminal background,” said Circle Officer, Balrampur, Radha Raman Singh.
DCP Kushwah said Khan was handled at first by Yusuf-al Hindi, an alleged IS operative of Indian origin killed in Syria, followed by a Pakistani, Abu Huzefa, who died in a drone strike in Afghanistan. “Later, another handler instructed him to carry out lone wolf strikes. It is for this that he came to Delhi.” The police said they also seized a motorcycle from Khan, which could be stolen.
According to the police, Khan spent between 2005 and 2010 in Dubai, working as a mason, and came in touch with IS commanders in 2015.
Following Khan’s arrest, the Uttar Pradesh government sounded an alert across the state.
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