Updated: March 30, 2016 9:05:13 am
Explosives meant to carry out serial blasts across India were dumped in a drain in Delhi last year by an alleged Mumbai-based Islamic State (IS) recruit because he panicked at the last moment, according to a senior security official.
Sources said that Mohammed Hussein Khan, one of the 14 alleged members of an IS module arrested in a joint operation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and six state-level agencies in January, “confessed” to having collected 1.5 kg of Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, from “a contact” in the capital.
“With visible police presence in Delhi, Khan got nervous and threw the explosives in a drain before boarding a train back to Mumbai. PETN (a plastic explosive) is one of the most powerful materials used by terror groups worldwide to prepare bombs,” said the official.
Khan, a businessman from Mazgaon, also allegedly revealed that he was given Rs 50,000 by another arrested accused, Muddabir Sheikh, “the self-proclaimed Amir” of the local module, to pay for the explosive material, said sources.
Khan told interrogators that he collected the material on orders from his suspected handler Shafi Armar, the module’s “foreign handler”, said sources.
Sources said Shafi is the brother of former Indian Mujahideen (IM) member Sultan Armar, from Bhatkal in Karnataka, who formed the breakaway Ansar-ul-Tawhid (AuT) in August 2014. Sultan is believed to have died in an airstrike in Syria in 2014.
“Shafi, alias Yusuf, uses his old IM contacts for recruitment, procurement of explosives and hawala transactions. In one of their chats, Khan was ordered to bring the explosive material to Mumbai where it would be assembled and carried by other members to execute multiple attacks at the same time,” said the senior official.
“After the clampdown on IM in 2008 by Mumbai Police, with the arrest of 21 members and other arrests across India, and the deportation of their leader Yasin Bhatkal, many went underground. They now see AuT as a better alternative with many scouting for more recruits,” said another official.
During the January bust, the joint security teams, including Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad, also allegedly seized “timer devices” from the Mumbra home of Khan’s local handler Sheikh, said sources.
They added that five bottles of hydrogen peroxide along with timer devices and wires were recovered from the house of another accused in Hyderadad. Sleuths also recovered a black powdery substance, suspected to be a low grade explosive material, they added.
“Last year, these IS members met at the Lucknow residence of another arrested accused Rizawan Nawazuddin, alias Khalid, who is suspected to be the second-in-command of the group. But there was a disagreement among them as Khalid proposed the idea of carrying out lone-wolf or individual attacks while Sheikh wanted to carry out multiple strikes. Sheikh’s decision prevailed and the members were asked to conduct a recce in Maharashtra and Goa. Goa was chosen because an attack on foreign tourists would attract global attention and create the desired impact,” said the official.
At this Lucknow meeting, Khan allegedly said that he would only support the module by providing logistical support. “Sheikh then asked Khan to arrange for over 150 sim cards using fake identities, which he did,” said the official.
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