Suspecting that members of the recently-busted outfit, which has been accused of being an Islamic State module, were planning to form a separate group to carry out terror activities, the NIA Thursday raided seven locations across Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
NIA sources said that four people have been detained and are being questioned. The key among them, sources said, is a Maulvi from a mosque in Ludhiana. The Maulvi hails from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh and was an associate of arrested accused Saqib Iftekhar, also a Maulvi from Hapur, said the sources.
Iftekhar is alleged to have helped the group procure weapons and had travelled to Jammu and Kashmir thrice to arrange weapons and to meet militants in the Valley. The NIA now suspects that Iftekhar’s visits to the Valley were not to arrange weapons for the group he was associated with, but to start a new group, the sources said.
On December 26, NIA arrested 10 people from Delhi’s Jaffarabad and Uttar Pradesh’s Amroha for allegedly being part of a group called Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam. The agency alleged that the group owed allegiance to the IS and was being handled by an online entity by the name of Abu Malik Peshawari.
During its raids, NIA had claimed to have seized arms and explosives. Officially, NIA has maintained that the group had plans to target “vital installations and important personalities which included politicians”.
According to NIA, the group was led by Delhi preacher Mufti Sohail with civil engineering student Mohammed Anas, Zubair and Zaid — all of them under arrest — being part of the core group. “We are examining why Iftekhar wanted to form a separate group,” an NIA officer said.
Sources said raids were conducted at Rampur, Bulandshahr, Meerut, Hapur, Amroha and Ludhiana Thursday and several suspects were questioned. Some of these suspects are being brought to Delhi, sources said. During the searches, NIA seized mobile phones, laptops and “incriminating literature”, sources said.
NIA has so far arrested 12 people in the case. The last arrest was made on January 12, when one Mohammed Absar Ahmed was nabbed from Meerut. A theology teacher at Jamia Husania Abul Hassan in Hapur, Absar was a close friend of Iftekhar and had travelled with him to Kashmir thrice to procure weapons and meet militants, according to NIA.
“Absar’s interrogation revealed that Iftekhar wanted to start a new group and it was in this connection that they had gone to Kashmir and met a Maulvi in Tral. The Maulvi helped them meet another person for contacts with militants who Iftekhar wanted to meet for training of his men. All these people have been questioned. It is from here that the clue about Ludhiana Maulvi being part of the group came,” an NIA officer said.
An NIA team comprising about 50 members and personnel of Crime Investigation Agency of Ludhiana Police raided the Madani Jama Masjid on Rahon Road and detained the Maulana, a native of Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. Sources said the Maulana had come to Ludhiana from Uttar Pradesh four months ago.
Jameel Ahmad, the president of the society that runs the mosque and the madrasa, said the Maulana was recruited on a trial basis as there is a shortage of teachers. He said he was a “qualified Maulvi” with good knowledge of Quran Sharif, Urdu and Arabic. The Maulana lived in the mosque and was hired for Rs 9,000 a month, Ahmad said. “He told us that he had his parents and younger siblings to take care of, all of whom were in UP. He never gave us any reason to suspect him. He used to follow a normal routine — reading namaaz and teaching children. He rarely went out, except when he had to visit his home,” he said.