A threat analysis carried out by security agencies on the basis of details provided by Yasin Bhatkal and aide Akhtar Asadullah,nabbed on the Indo-Nepal border in the last week of August,has revealed that the Indian Mujahideen (IM) has become stronger and more lethal despite the arrest of over 100 of its cadres.
The group has branched out to Pakistan and Afghanistan,where its cadres are fighting alongside the Taliban.There are now three factions of the IM and Amir Reza Khan alias Rizwan is no more its chief. He has set up another group and continues to enjoy the patronage of the ISI.
Our initial assessment was that the group has weakened with arrest of so many cadres and there is division. But the IM,considered a creation of the fugitive Amir Reza Khan,has grown many folds. Each group has its men and logistics in India, a counter-terror official said. The IM structure changed after the 2008 Batla House encounter and engineer-turned-jihadist Riyaz Bhatkal and his brother Iqbal began calling the shots as they shifted to Pakistan,said officials. This is believed to have caused an acrimonious spat between Riyaz and Amir,who decided to go his separate way.
Another top IM operative Shahnawaz,a Unani doctor and brother of Mohd Saif of Azamgarh,is now a lieutenant of Amir. Saif was arrested during the Batla House encounter.
Amirs sister-in-law is believed to have married Shahnawaz,who now recruits youths from UP with the help of local contacts in SIMI.
This has meant less financial support from the ISI to Riyaz but he also gets help from other militants groups. The module headed by Riyaz is learnt to have had plans to start a legal business in Nepal,where a large number of Indian businessmen have settled. This business would have been used as cover to carry out strikes and transfer money. At the time of arrest,Yasin was practising medicine and had plans to open a wholesale medical shop with the name Anmol. The group was desperate to carry out kidnappings and robberies.
The third faction of the IM is headed by Mohd Sajid alias Bada Sajid and Mirza Shadab Beig,who belong to Azamgarh in UP and reportedly fought in Afghanistan against the US forces. According to one account,Iqbal Bhatkal was chosen as the Amir of IMs Azamgarh module after the death of Atif Ameen in 2008. The selection was made in Dubai where scores of IM operatives fled after a crackdown in 2008. The group then moved to Pakistan.
A few years ago,some boys of the Azamgarh module revolted against Iqbal due to his philandering ways. Iqbal is learnt to have married a Pakistani woman. While Riyaz was running his own module with Yasins help,the Azamgarh boys were not given any tasks by Iqbal,which frustrated them and they decided to fight in Afghanistan. The group now led by Mirza Shadab Beig is trying to forge an alliance with al-Qaeda and has denounced Iqbal as its Amir.