Updated: October 11, 2021 9:46:58 am
From a 22-year-old from Delhi who studied in the UAE to a 45-year-old auto driver from Mumbai once arrested for trying to target LK Advani — most of the 10 people arrested over the past three weeks in connection with an alleged terror module have little in common, leaving police forces in the national capital and Maharashtra with the task of connecting the dots. The key similarity so far is that eight of the 10 have no previous criminal records.
It was on September 14 that Delhi Police’s Special Cell picked up six people from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra, with officers alleging they had links to Pakistan’s ISI and Dawood Ibrahim’s associates, and were planning terror attacks in the country during the festive season. In the days since, police have managed to establish links between some of them — even as senior officers say their “handlers” had made every effort to have them work in silos and keep interaction to a bare minimum.
This, investigators said, is a new pattern — while people who were part of terror modules earlier would be trained in the same camp and were taken care of by one handler, this time they were divided into groups of three. “Earlier, the arrest of even one person would expose the whole plan. This time, they kept people separate so they couldn’t share details with anyone,” an officer said.
Announcing the arrests, Special CP (Special Cell) Neeraj Thakur had said, “We have arrested Jaan Mohamed Shaikh (47), a resident of Maharashtra; Osama alias Sami (22), a resident of Jamia Nagar; Moolchand alias Saaju (47), a resident of Rae Bareli; Zeeshan Qamar (28), a resident of Allahabad; Mohd Abu Bakar (23), resident of Bahraich; and Mohd Amir Javed (31), a resident of Lucknow.” Days later, Osama’s uncle Humaidur-Ur-Rehman, now a key accused, surrendered in UP and was arrested.
“The arrested persons were tasked with executing separate aspects of the alleged terror plan. Underworld operative Jaan Mohamed Shaikh alias Sameer Kaliya, a close contact of Dawood’s brother Anees Ibrahim, was hired by a Pakistan-based person to ensure the smooth delivery of IEDs, sophisticated weapons and grenades to people in India. Osama and Zeeshan, both trained terror operatives, were asked to conduct reconnaissance of suitable locations in Delhi and UP for placing the IEDs,” Thakur said.
The exact details of locations they allegedly meant to target, though, remain scarce.
Pakistan to Lucknow to Delhi
Police say the delivery of IEDs, weapons, and grenades was done from Pakistan via drone.
“The consignment was then picked up from the border area of Pakistan-Punjab and dropped off at Lucknow, from where it was allegedly picked up by Osama and his uncle Humaidur-Ur-Rehman in their car. Police are looking for the person who made the drop to Lucknow — he had shared the latitude and longitude coordinates along with the picture of the drop location in Lucknow with the ISI, and they shared it with Osama’s father, who allegedly sent it to his son,” a senior police officer said.
A lookout circular has been issued for Osama’s father, believed to be in Dubai. The consignment was supposed to be sent to Delhi. “Sameer, the underworld operative, and Rae Bareli resident Moolchand were tasked by Pakistan-based Anees Ibrahim to receive it in the national capital,” Thakur said.
The Dubai connection
To bolster their case, officers of the Special Cell have also found three ‘star witnesses’ — including accused Humaidur-Ur-Rehman’s brother-in-law, who claims he was asked by him to go to Pakistan to train. According to police, when Rehman was working in Dubai as a cab driver last year, he received a call from his elder brother, also based in Dubai, to “arrange two men for training in Pakistan”. The two were first supposed to be sent to Muscat, police said.
“Rehman gave the task to Osama and his brother-in-law (the star witness), and dropped them off at Lucknow airport, but his brother-in-law got scared and did not go ahead with the plan. In Muscat, Osama met Zeeshan, from where the two were taken to Pakistan with help from a human trafficker. They eventually reached Pakistan’s Gwadar airport, and after completing training at Thatta in Karachi, they returned to India via the same route,” a senior police officer said.
The Maharashtra arrests
In Mumbai, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has arrested three people so far in connection with the alleged terror plot, though it is yet to identify the intent of the group or the places they were planning to target. The ATS suspects the three were working in coordination with the module busted by the Special Cell.
“The three who have been arrested so far, in collaboration with the six accused arrested by the Special Cell, were planning to do something big. While they definitely have terror links, we are yet to unearth the complete conspiracy and find out the places they were planning to target,” a senior ATS official said.
Following the arrest of Jaan Mohamed by the Special Cell, the ATS arrested an autorickshaw driver named Zakir Hussain Shaikh and a teacher, Rizwan Momin, from Mumbai on September 18 and 19 respectively.
The ATS claims Zakir, a resident of Jogeshwari, is suspected to have been in touch with Jaan Mohamed alias Sameer. Police believe Zakir was operating on instructions from his handler, who the ATS suspects is his brother Sagir, through a Malaysian phone number.
Both Zakir and Sagir are said to have criminal antecedents. ATS officials said that Sagir, an alleged Chhota Shakeel operative, had been tasked with recruiting people for terror-related activities in India while Zakir was the local liaison. The latter had been arrested in 2001 and served a sentence for being involved in an alleged plot to assassinate BJP leader L K Advani.
The second person to be arrested is Rizwan Momin (40), in whose home Zakir had stayed from September 14 -17 after the Special Cell first made an announcement of the six arrests.
Rizwan is accused of sheltering Zakir and also destroying his mobile phone and throwing it into a drain near his house in Mumbra.
An ATS official claimed he was “aware of the conspiracy” and “broke Zakir’s phone in such a way that we are finding it difficult to retrieve data”. Police also allege Rizwan’s bank account was being used by Zakir to harbour money, and they have also learnt that one of the six accused stayed at Rizwan’s home while doing a recce in Mumbai.
The third person to be arrested is 50-year-old Mohammed Irfan Rehmat Ali Shaikh, a tailor residing in Bandra, who was picked up on September 30. Zakir was arrested by the ATS from Irfan’s house. “Zakir’s brother Sagir would send money on Irfan’s name that was allegedly used for terror-related activity. Recently, Rs 50,000 was sent for Zakir through Western Union and it was routed via the USA,” an ATS officer said. Investigators said they have written to Western Union to seek details on who sent the money.
Police claim that Irfan also provided his phone to Zakir through which he communicated with his handlers in Malaysia. All three accused come from poor financial backgrounds and reside in slum pockets in the city.
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