Updated: July 19, 2021 12:44:51 am
THE UTTAR Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) on Sunday claimed that the two arrested “operatives” of al Qaeda-linked Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind (AGH) were desperate to trigger a bomb blast in the state capital after putting together an explosive device in a bid to announce their presence.
They said the terror suspects were waiting for instructions from their handler and al-Qaeda leader in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) Umar Halmandi who operates from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. But before any direction could come through, the ATS swooped in on them and picked them up from their homes in Lucknow last week..
“The explosive device was prepared about two days before their arrest. After being alerted about their plan to plant the explosive and trigger a blast, we moved in to apprehend them at the earliest,” Inspector General, ATS, GK Goswamy said.
The elite anti-terror squad had initially decided to arrest all persons of the group whose names came up during its probe, on the same day, but given the apparent desperation of the suspects to orchestrate a terror attack, they moved in early to arrest them.
On July 11, the ATS arrested Minhaz and Maseeruddin from their homes in Lucknow. Three days later, on July 14, the sleuths picked up three of their suspected associates — Shakeel, Mohammad Mustakeem and Mohammad Moid — all Lucknow residents. All the accused are presently on police remand. The ATS also claimed to have recovered explosives and a weapon from the house of Minhaz and Maseeruddin. Police also recovered a pressure cooker bomb in a “ready condition” from Minhaz’s place.
According to the police, Minhaz and Maseeruddin were recruited by Halmandi, who took the reins of AQIS after the death of his predecessor Asim Umar, in a joint operation by American and Afghan forces in Afghanistan in 2019.
“About a year-and-a-half back, Minhaz came into contact with Halmandi online. Later, he introduced Maseeruddin to Halmandi. Since then, they were in regular contact with their handler and on Halmandi’s direction, they began scouting for a place to trigger the blast. They conducted a recee at several places,” an ATS official said. The sleuths said the suspects put together the explosive device following a bomb-making clip sent by their handler on their mobile phones.
“The accused admitted to have planned a blast in another district of Uttar Pradesh, but have so far not identified it by name,” an officer said.
The ATS, thus far, has not been able to establish any criminal antecedents of the five arrested suspects. “We have also not found any evidence to link them to the person arrested previously on terror charges,” Goswamy said.
The sleuths, it is understood, are trying gather information on where the accused sourced the weapon and the explosives. They are also awaiting the report on the explosive device that was sent to a laboratory for examination. The suspects’ phones were also sent to the laboratory to retrieve data.
The ATS is also probing if there is any other group active in the state which is in contact with Halmandi, who is understood to be recruiting youths for terror operations in the country.
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