The Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS), which on Wednesday arrested eight persons and detained a 17-year-old for alleged links to Islamic State (IS), said on Thursday that one of the accused, Mohsin Khan, had created a WhatsApp group called ‘Ummat-e Mohammadiya’ (followers of the Prophet) with 20 members. Sources said that while nine of the 20 members have been identified as accused, the police have sent teams to interrogate the others to find out if they knew anything about the alleged plans of the accused.
The ATS has alleged that the group was planning attacks in Mumbai, Aurangabad and other areas in the coming days.
An officer said the ATS came to know about the group while going through Mohsin’s phone. “It appears that the group had been created by Mohsin, who earlier resided in Mumbra before moving to Aurangabad after marriage nearly two years ago. In addition to those arrested in the case, Mohsin had 11 others to the group. We will be questioning them.”
In addition to the WhatsApp group, the officer said that the accused had also had created a group with a similar name on Facebook with over 25 members. The agency had earlier said that the accused used social media platforms like Snapchat to communicate with each other.
Officers said the ATS is in the process of checking the bank accounts details of the accused to see if any suspicious monetary deposits were made in the last few months. The agency also suspected that one of those arrested in the case had a foreign handler who had indoctrinated the person, who later influenced the others. “Mohsin, the elder brother of two other arrested, Salman and Taqi, could have been in touch with the foreign handler,” an officer said.
“The brothers appear to have been radicalised and also got their sister married to Mohammad Sarfaraz, an accused in the case, who they believed was on the right path. The sister was married earlier. They got her to divorce her husband and she married again six months ago,” the officer said.
Following a series of raids carried out by the ATS on the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday, the agency on had arrested eight men and detained a 17-year-old youth from Mumbra in Thane and Aurangabad. The ATS has alleged that the accused were planning to make some poisonous chemical and mix it in food and water at an event that would result in mass casualty.