Terror suspects were looking for a forested area

NIA arrests eight more men on Saturday, taking the total to 14.

January 23, 2016 04:20 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 04:17 am IST

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) said on Saturday that altogether 14 persons have been arrested in a nationwide raid for plotting terror attacks. The suspects were in the process of identifying a “forested area” to organise a training camp where associates could be taught handling of weapons and arms, a senior official said.

After conducting raids at 12 locations in six cities, the NIA arrested eight more men on Saturday. Those arrested have been identified as Syed Mujahid (33), a resident of Tumakuru, Karnataka; Mohammad Aleem (20) of Lucknow; Mohammed Obedullah Khan (33) and Abu Anas (24) of Hyderabad; Asif Ali (21), Muhammed Abdul Ahad (46) and Suhail Ahmed (23) of Bengaluru; and Imran Khan Pathan of Aurangabad.

Unlike others arrested in the past for alleged links with the Islamic State (IS), this group had procured explosives and were in the process of carrying out attacks at multiple locations. The group of men, led by Mumbai resident Mudabbir Sheikh, had met on several occasions after they came to know each other through their common handler — the former member of Indian Mujahideen Shafi Armar alias Yousuf, who now heads the Ansar-ul-Tawhid, which has pledged allegiance to the IS.

Some of the arrested had identified location for attacks

The group of terrorists arrested by the NIA did not use the commonly available web-based applications like WhatsApp to share files and information on preparing Improvised Explosive Devices. They were instead active on ShareIt and Trillian messenger for online chat and communication, The Hindu has learnt.

Officials said some of the members had even met each other and identified locations to carry out attacks. The NIA said earlier that the accused were in the process of targeting policemen and foreigners.

Inspired by the IS

While the NIA and the Union Home Ministry were cautious in linking the arrested persons to the Islamic State (IS), a top government official said the group was indeed inspired by the IS, and the former member of Indian Mujahideen Shafi Armar alias Yousuf, who now heads the Ansar ul Tawhid (AuT) that has pledged allegiance to the IS, had recruited them on its behalf.

“The Islamic State has a lot of traction in India, and it is using the dark web to recruit young men and women. They are operating at several levels, and Armar is one of the links here. We have reasonable information that Armar is based in Syria and is getting directions from the Islamic State to rope in men here,” the official said.

Under surveilance

Asked what led to the crackdown because the groups were under surveillance for the last seven-eight months, a senior official said: “Their communication with each other precipitated the arrests. Since they have procured the explosives, it was imperative to arrest them.”

> On Friday, the NIA and state police had arrested six accused persons . One more person identified as Imran Khan Pathan alias Abu Hind from Aurangabad was detained on Saturday afternoon. NIA officials said investigations were on and he had not been arrested yet.

While Home Ministry has refused to name IS, officials said > they were being recruited by former Indian Mujahideen (IM) member Shafi Armar alias Yousuf, a key member of Ansar ul Tawhid (AuT), which has pledged allegiance to the terrorist outfit. The accused are being brought to Delhi where they will be subjected to sustained interrogation.

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