In the second such crackdown this year, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday arrested five men and detained six others in Hyderabad. They are alleged to be part of a conspiracy to carry out terror strikes at religious places to trigger communal riots in the city, a senior NIA official said.
Another official told The Hindu that a large quantity of chemicals and acids had been recovered, different from the usual lot seized from terror suspects in the past. The accused were allegedly in touch with members of the Islamic State (IS).
“Such acids and chemicals have been recovered for the first time. They were making some lethal concoction of explosives it seems. A large vessel and three litres of paint were also recovered. They were using masks and gloves to protect them from any kind of injury that they may sustain while preparing the bomb and lead to suspicion against them,” said an official, who is part of the investigations.
The accused were acting on the directions of a common handler of the Islamic State based in Syria.
Under NIA watch for three months
Officials suspect that key members of the Ansar-ul-Tawhid (AuT), a breakaway group of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), which later on pledged allegiance to the IS, could have roped in the young men to carry out attacks.
All the recruitments were done through the Internet and secure web-based applications. The accused were under surveillance for the past three months.
“They came under the scanner after behavioural changes were noticed in them. On the basis of information passed on by the locals, the NIA kept a tab on their activities,” said the official. During a countrywide raid in January this year, the NIA had arrested 25 men with links to the IS.
NIA officials said that so far there was no common link between the two sets of arrests. “This is a fresh module,” said another official.
A First Information Report (FIR) was registered by the NIA on June 22 under various sections of Indian Penal Code, the Explosive Substances Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
The FIR, available with The Hindu, says: “The accused and their accomplices from Hyderabad and other parts of the country have entered into a criminal conspiracy to wage war against government of India by collecting weapons and explosive materials to target prominent places, public places, religious places, malls, markets, public properties and in particular sensitive government buildings in Hyderabad and other places.”
It also read: “It is also reliably learnt that they have acquired weapons and explosive materials to carry out violent terrorist attacks and related subversive activities. The members of this group are in constant touch with each other on the Internet and are using various other communication platforms within India and have linkages abroad. Information has also been received to the effect that the group members are in communication with a terrorist organisation namely IS, which is a proscribed organisation.”
On Wednesday, NIA conducted searches at eleven locations in Hyderabad City and recovered two 9 mm pistols, an airgun, Urea, chemicals (yet to be analysed), 23 mobile phones, three laptops, seven pendrives, two target boards, two gas stoves, a big vessel for mixing explosives, imported knives, condenser, pressure meter, three litres of paint, two clocks and masks and gloves.