Former Indian Mujahideen (IM) member Shafi Armar, suspected to be the chief recruiter of the 14 men recently arrested by NIA for planning terror strikes across the country, wanted a unit of Junud al Khalifa-e-Hind (Soldiers of the Indian Caliphate) to be raised in every state and major city. Armar had allegedly floated Junud al Khalifa-e-Hind, touting it as a franchise of Islamic State in India.
Armar, who allegedly chatted with those arrested over social media and encrypted messengers such as Trillion, Surespot and Skype, had asked Mumbai-resident Mudabbir Sheikh and Kushinagar-resident Rizwan Khalid to ensure that these units are set up, said sources, adding that the units were to be activated as and when required to launch an attack.
“Armar had been successful in raising a national structure with Mudabbir appointed the Ameer (chief) and Rizwan the Naib Ameer (deputy chief). Nafees Khan had been appointed as finance chief of the group and Najmul Hooda as military head. Armar wanted every state and city to have such units,” said an officer.
The officer said the group was holding regular meetings and added that information about eight such meetings in the past one year has come to the fore. Three meetings were held in Lucknow, the latest in the first week of January, said sources, adding that one each was held in Saharanpur, Pune, Mangalore, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
“At these meetings, six to seven members would discuss ways to strengthen the organisation. Mudabbir and Rizwan would generally be present. The rest would be from the region the meeting was being held in,” said the officer.
He added that some of these meetings were also attended by the four boys from Roorkee, who were recently picked up by Delhi Police, and three boys from Malwani (Mumbai), who were arrested by Maharashtra ATS for trying to join the IS. These two cases, home ministry sources said, are likely to be transferred to NIA.
Sources said though the group had been meeting for over a year, intelligence agencies first got a hint of their online activity in April 2015. “They are sharp techies. They were frequently changing their user IDs and using code words to talk about their plans. We decided to arrest them after we got a hint that they have acquired explosives,” said an intelligence official.
Investigators have recovered three bottles of hydrogen peroxide from a Bengaluru-based accused while a black powdery substance, suspected to be a low-grade explosive, has been found in the possession of a Hyderabad-based accused. They have also recovered pipes, circuits and timer devices from the houses of various accused.
Sources said investigators believe Armar sent Rs 6 lakh to the group to spread the organisation, conduct terror training camps and buy explosives and other logistics for attacks. “They had not zeroed in on a target. They were discussing targeting security forces, vital installations and foreigners. Had they not been arrested, they would have gone on to do something,” said an officer.