MAAZ HASSAN Farooq, one of the three men arrested by Telangana Police Sunday for allegedly plotting a terror attack during Dussehra celebrations, had twice earlier attempted to fly out of the country to join terror outfits and had undergone de-radicalisation sessions.
On Sunday, when Telangana Police’s Counter Intelligence (CI) Cell officers knocked on his door in a Hyderabad neighbourhood, Maaz’s father Aijaz Mohiuddin is said to have told them, “Take him away. We tried our best but he refuses to mend his ways. He has stopped listening to us.’’
Maaz, 29, and his two alleged co-conspirators, Abdul Zahed and Mohammed Sameeuddin, were arrested for allegedly planning to lob grenades at Dussehra gatherings in the city.
Four grenades and over Rs 5 lakh in cash were seized from them.
Maaz has been in similar situations in the past, but this time, a police officer said, the charges against him are “far more serious”. As per the remand report filed by the Investigation Officer, Maaz faces charges under sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Explosive Substances Act.
In September 2014, Maaz, then 21, and his cousin Mohammed Abdullah Basith left home, with the duo later allegedly telling police that they wanted to go to any place where a “jihad” was on — Palestine, Syria or Iraq. From Hyderabad, they travelled to West Bengal and were hoping to cross over into Dhaka, from where they planned to fly out to Afghanistan. But before they could do that, alerted by a missing persons complaint lodged by their parents, the Telangana Police traced the two to Malda in West Bengal and brought them back home.
“Although a complaint was registered, the police were lenient and the boys were not arrested. They were asked to undergo a deradicalisation programme as part of which the two spent several hours talking to the counselors, often in the presence of their parents,’’ an official said.
Just over a year after they were brought back from West Bengal, Maaz, Basith, and another cousin of theirs, Syed Omer Farooq Hussaini, once again decided they were ready for war.
As part of a plan that Maaz allegedly masterminded, on December 25, 2015, the three left their homes on two motorcycles and drove to Adilabad in Telangana. From there, they hired a taxi to Nagpur airport and booked flight tickets to Srinagar for the next morning.
This time too, as the parents of the three men filed a complaint, a joint team of the Telangana and Maharashtra police detained the men just as they were about to board the flight to Srinagar.
“They told us that they were planning to reach Srinagar, from where they would have reached out to some local militant organisations who would have helped them to get to Syria or Iraq to join the IS,’’ the official said, adding that the youths were sent to judicial custody for 14 days before being released on conditional bail.
The youths were again put through several rounds of counselling and de-radicalisation sessions. After he was brought back from West Bengal in September 2014 – the first time he left home – Maaz got back to college.
A student of BTech (Instrumentation) at Muffakham Jah College of Engineering and Technology, he soon started to struggle with his subjects.
Police said that initially, the youths were under the strict supervision of their parents. Their phones were confiscated and they were not allowed out of home much. But as they gradually earned the trust of their parents, they were back on social media, where they allegedly spent hours watching and reading jihadi and Islamic State propaganda.
Police said Maaz may have been influenced by his cousin Basith, who, while on bail, was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on charges of conspiring to further the agenda of the ISIS.
The NIA stated that Basith and others conspired to identify, motivate, radicalise, recruit and train Muslim youths on behalf of ISIS. Sources said it was during Maaz’s regular visits to prison to visit Basith that he got in touch with Abdul Zahed, a terror suspect and an alleged ISI agent, who was suspected of planning and coordinating terror attacks across Hyderabad.