The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Sunday interrogated the six suspected al-Qaeda operatives arrested the day before in Murshidabad district, questioning them about their network in West Bengal.
Sources said that on Monday the NIA was likely to fly out the six to Delhi. On Sunday, they were produced in a special NIA court here, which granted the agency transit remand till September 24. The accused will have to be produced in Patiala House Court by then.
The interrogation on Sunday was conducted at the agency’s office in Bidhan Nagar. Sources said one of the accused revealed that they were trying to brainwash unemployed youth in Murshidabad to work for them.
According to the NIA, a few members of the module were planning to travel to New Delhi to procure arms and ammunition. “These arrests have pre-empted possible terrorist attacks in various parts of the country,” the agency added in a statement.
Border districts under watch
This is not the first time that suspected terrorists have been held in the district. From the 2018 Bodh Gaya blast to the explosion in Khagragarh in 2014, many of those arrested were from Murshidabad and other districts bordering Bangladesh. According to intelligence agencies, terrorist outfits want to recruit unemployed youths in these areas. They usually look to enlist those with no criminal records, seeking to train them to carry out lone wolf attacks. This makes it difficult for security agencies to stop them. It is thus important that the state works with central agencies to surveil border districts.
The police said the suspected al-Qaeda operatives were not only using their hometown as a safe hideout, but were allegedly carrying out subversive activities such as collecting funds and attempting to recruit vulnerable Muslim youth. Their primary job was apparently motivating new recruits to make hand-made weapons, explosives and radicalising them so that they could carry out terror attacks. The six have been questioned about the source of their funds.
According to officials, attempts were being made to decode every message shared by accused on social media platforms, and the documents on electronic devices seized from them. Investigators have found that the accused were part of the same WhatsApp group and used to interact with each other on it.
Meanwhile, investigators said an underground chamber was discovered in the house of Abu Sufiyan, one of the accused, in Murshidabad district’s Raninagar area. The police have recovered wires, switches and other material from Sufiyan’s home, which is under construction.
During the day, the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and other police departments met NIA officials to seek more inputs about this suspected al-Qaeda module.
Apart from the six arrested in West Bengal, the NIA on Saturday also held three suspected operatives of the terrorist organisation from Ernakulam in Kerala. All nine are from Murshidabad. In a statement, NIA said the men held were radicalised by a Pakistan-based al-Qaeda module on social media, and motivated to carry out attacks at multiple places, including the National Capital Region.
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