SECURITY OFFICIALS suspect that the handler of the alleged Amroha-Delhi terror module, which the National Investigation Agency (NIA) claimed to have busted last month, was based in Pakistan, sources told The Indian Express.
The handler assumed the online identity of Abu Malik Peshawari and was instrumental in motivating the module’s alleged mastermind — Mufti Suhail, a preacher from Delhi’s Jaffrabad — to join the Islamic State, the NIA has alleged.
The “preliminary conclusion” on the handler’s identity is based on analysis of purported online chats between Suhail and Peshawari, sources said. “The Urdu that Peshawari speaks and writes is largely identified with a certain region in Pakistan. Such Urdu is neither spoken in India nor in any other part of the world. We are yet to identify him or come to a definitive conclusion that he is a Pakistani,” said an officer speaking on condition of anonymity.
After it claimed to have busted the alleged module on December 26, the NIA has found that some members of this group had travelled to Kashmir twice last year to establish contact with local militants for training and weapons, sources said.
In a bid to attract the attention of IS sympathisers online, sources said, Suhail identified himself as Abu Basir al Khurasani. The second part of this name, sources said, was an attempt to indicate his location and allegiance — the Af-Pak-India region and the IS Khorasan, operational in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar.
As the 29-year-old preacher from Amroha began trawling the Internet, he soon found a “friend and guide” on Facebook in Peshawari, said sources. Investigators suspect it was on Peshawari’s directions that Suhail allegedly began motivating his friends and acquaintances to engage in IS activities.
NIA investigators, however, appear to have ruled out a link between Sohail’s alleged module and another led by Abdullah Basith from Hyderabad, who was also found to have been in touch with suspected members of the Islamic State in J&K. Two members of Basith’s group had been arrested by Delhi Police from Amroha, from where Mufti Suhail and some of his associates hail.
Investigations into the Amroha-Delhi module have, however, revealed that one of the accused — Saqib Iftekhar, a Hapur-based imam — had travelled to J&K twice in search of weapons and to meet militants.
“In May, he visited Bandipora in North Kashmir and went to Rajouri in Jammu. In August, he visited Tral to meet a cleric. He and the cleric are known to each other as they studied theology in an Amroha seminary together. He asked the cleric to arrange for weapons and to help him meet Mujahideen. The cleric made him meet a man connected to militants,” the officer claimed.
The NIA has arrested 12 persons in the Amroha-Delhi case. The last arrest was made on January 12, when Mohammed Absar Ahmed, a theology teacher in Hapur, was nabbed from Meerut. Ahmed was a friend of Iftekhar and had travelled with him to Kashmir twice, according to the NIA.
“Absar’s interrogation revealed that Iftekhar wanted to start a new group. It was in this connection that they had met a cleric in Tral,” an NIA officer claimed.
On December 26, NIA arrested 10 people from Jaffrabad and UP’s Amroha for allegedly being part of a group called Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam. The NIA also claimed to have seized a huge cache of arms and explosives that were to be used to target “vital installations and important personalities, which included politicians”.