THE Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Saturday arrested one more person, a 24-year-old man from Mumbra in Thane district, for his alleged links with the Islamic State. The agency had arrested seven men and detained a minor last Wednesday for allegedly plotting to carry out a chemical attack in the country.
Talha Pudrik, the latest arrest, was picked up from his Mumbra residence after those arrested earlier “revealed his role” in the alleged conspiracy, the ATS claimed. “In continuation with the investigation, Pudrik was nabbed from his residence on Saturday,” an ATS officer said.
Pudrik is a graduate in management studies. The ATS said he came in touch with the suspects through Mohseen Sirajuddin Khan, one of the suspects arrested earlier, and was present in all the meetings held by the accused in Mumbai, Thane and Aurangabad. The ATS seized a laptop, a tablet, a hard disk, pen drives, a router, cellphones and diaries from Pudrik’s residence.
The ATS said last week that after monitoring the group’s conversations on cyber platforms for several weeks, they arrested Mohseen, Mohammed Taqi, Mazhar Shaikh and Mohseen’s brother-in-law Mohammed Sarfaraz from Aurangabad. During their interrogation, another relative of Mohseen, Mohammed Mushahid-ul-Islam, was identified, who was picked up from the same city, the ATS said.
During interrogation, they revealed four more names — Salman Khan, Fahad Ansari, Jaman Khuteupad and a minor aged 17 — who were then picked up from Mumbra. Mohseen, Salman and Taqi are brothers. Mohseen reportedly moved out of the family residence in Mumbra and shifted to Aurangabad with his wife two years ago.
The ATS seized several gadgets, different types of powders and bottles of chemicals from the residences of those arrested on Wednesday. The agency believes the men were planning to mix these chemicals in food and water at an event to inflict mass casualties. “We have sent the seized powders and chemicals for forensic analysis,” an officer said.
The ATS claimed the group was in touch with their handlers abroad, adding that the attack was probably planned during Holi. “They would have either mixed these concentrated chemicals in a water reservoir or targeted an event. We have learnt the group had undertaken recces of a few water reservoirs in Mumbai and Aurangabad,” an ATS officer said.
Investigators claimed Mohseen, Taqi and Salman are IS sympathisers who were tasked with “radicalising” others. The investigators said they would identify prospective recruits in nearby mosques. The group used Snapchat to communicate and radicalise others, ATS officers claimed, adding that they had even formed a group on WhatsApp with 11 other members, who are currently being interrogated.
All the accused have been booked under Section 120(B) of the IPC and under relevant sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Bombay Police Act. They were produced in a court in Aurangabad and remanded in police custody. The minor was sent to a remand home in Mumbai.