The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday arrested 10 people from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, saying it had conducted searches of their houses at 17 locations across these two states for allegedly being part of a module of the Islamic State (IS).
The NIA said the group — self-appointed and financed — was in an “advanced stage of carrying out a series of blasts” across the country and had “vital installations and important personalities, including politicians” on their target.
Allegedly led by an Islamic preacher, the group, investigators said, has members from various backgrounds — from a civil engineering student to a welder, an undergraduate student to an autorickshaw driver.
The agency said it had recovered a huge cache of explosives, arms and ammunition from the accused. The arsenal included a rudimentary rocket launcher which two of the accused, the NIA said, had allegedly fashioned out of scrap.
The recovery of over 25 kg of explosives, as many as 112 alarm clocks and 134 SIM cards, the NIA said, pointed to the planning of multiple blasts. The agency also said it had recovered material that suggested preparation of a suicide vest along with evidence of online chatter that suggested fidayeen attacks.
Recovery of remote-controlled devices has made NIA suspect some of the bombs were to be detonated via remote control.
This is among the biggest arrests the NIA has made at one time in connection with its probe into activities associated with the Islamic State in the country. In 2015, NIA had arrested over 20 men from Hyderabad and elsewhere for allegedly being part of a module that planned to carry out terror attacks in the country.
As many as six more people, including a woman from Lucknow, are currently being questioned in connection with the case and some of them may soon be put under arrest, NIA sources said. The woman from Lucknow is alleged to have helped two of the accused sell jewellery stolen from their house despite knowing that the money so earned was going to be used for terror activities, NIA sources said.
The group, NIA claimed, received directions from an “online entity” which is suspected to be based in a foreign country. “In an early morning action today, NIA carried out searches at 17 locations in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh in a major crackdown on an ISIS-inspired module styled as Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam, with active support of Delhi Police and UP Police/UP ATS,” an NIA statement said.
NIA IG Alok Mittal said that the group was going to carry out attacks soon and that is why agencies, which had the group under surveillance some three months ago, arrested them. “All the accused are in the age group of 20-30 years and members come from various professions — from civil engineer to welder, from undergraduate to autorickshaw driver. The group is led by Mufti Suhail, a religious preacher who hails from Amroha, but recently shifted to Seelampur in Delhi. He has motivated and directed the group at every step while carrying out its activities,” Mittal said
According to NIA, the group is self-financed and its only foreign link is the suspected handler who is as yet an online entity. NIA and Central intelligence agencies received inputs about the group’s activities at least four months ago, sources said. “The inputs were further developed and field verifications were done. It was ascertained that Mufti Mohd. Suhail alias Hazrath and his associates have mobilised funds and have procured weapons, ammunition and explosive material to prepare IEDs and bombs and they plan to carry out explosions and fidayeen attacks at places of importance in and around Delhi and also target crowded places,” an NIA statement said.
The agency said raids were conducted to disrupt this activity. Searches were carried out at six places in Jafrabad, Seelampur, Delhi, and 11 places in Uttar Pradesh, which included six locations in Amroha, two in Lucknow, two in Hapur and one in Meerut. It is from Meerut that the accused are suspected of having procured arms and ammunition.
“The seized items include 25 kg of explosive material, such as Potassium Nitrate, Ammonium Nitrate, Sulphur, Sugar material paste, 12 pistols, 150 rounds of live ammunition, one countrymade rocket launcher, 112 alarm clocks, mobile phone circuits, batteries, 51 pipes, remote control car triggering switch, wireless digital doorbell for remote switch, steel containers, electric wires, 91 mobile phones, 134 SIM cards, three laptops, knife, sword, ISIS-related literature and a cash amount of Rs 7.5 lakh approximately,” the NIA statement said.
Among the recoveries is also a video with visual of an IED. According to NIA, Mufti Suhail is heard explaining intricacies of an IED in the video. “The group had learnt to assemble an IED through online literature and videos,” an NIA investigator said. Among the 12 pistols, sources said, only eight are of good quality, of which only four are factory made. “Rest are desi katta,” an NIA officer said.
The arrested accused have been identified as Mufti Mohd. Suhail (29); Anas Yunus (24), a civil engineering student at Amity University, Noida; Rashid Zafar Raq alias Zafar (23), a garments shop owner from Jafrabad, Seelampur; Saeed (28), a welder from Amroha; Raees Ahmad, Saeed’s brother, also a welder; Zubair Malik (20) from Jafrabad, Delhi, a BA third year student at Delhi University; Zaid Malik (22), Zubair’s elder brother; Saqib Iftekar (26), an Imam from Hapur; Mohd. Irshad, an autorickshaw driver from Amroha; and Mohd. Azam (35), a medical shop owner from Delhi.
According to NIA, the two brothers “Saeed and Raees had procured huge quantity of explosive material/gun powder for preparing IEDs and pipe bombs and were instrumental in fabricating a rocket launcher to carry out terrorist attacks”. They were also behind the rocket launcher recovered in the raids.
Zubair and Zaid had allegedly stolen gold belonging to their parents and sold it for Rs 5-7 lakh. This money was allegedly used to fund the activities of the group.
“Apart from these accused, some other suspects are being examined. The arrested accused would be produced before the NIA Special Court, Patiala Court House, New Delhi tomorrow. Further investigation of the case is continued to unearth the larger terror conspiracy,” the NIA statement said.