The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday arrested 10 alleged members of an Islamic State(IS)-inspired module and detained six suspects in a joint operation with the Delhi police’s Special Cell and the Anti-Terrorist Squad of Uttar Pradesh. The accused persons, from whom a huge stash of bomb-making material, weapons and a country-made rocket launcher have been seized, were planning to target political leaders and security and government installations.
NIA Inspector-General Alok Mittal said given the preparation of the module named ‘Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam’, which was active for the past four months and received instructions from an overseas handler via WhatsApp and Telegram mobile chat platforms, terror strikes in the National Capital Region were imminent.
The accused had conducted surveillance of some potential targets. They also intended to carry out “fidayeen” attacks, besides triggering blasts at crowded places, for which they attempted to make bullet-proof vests and remote-controlled bombs, Mr. Mittal said. Five members of the module were arrested in Delhi, and the rest were rounded up in Uttar Pradesh. While six more suspects are being interrogated, investigations are on to find out if more were involved.
The accused are between 20 and 35 years of age. Among those arrested was alleged team head Mufti Mohammed Suhail, a teacher at a madrasa in Amroha and a resident of northeast Delhi’s Jaffrabad. He had roped in the others and motivated them to raise funds and procure bomb-making items and weapons. It was a self-funded module, with the members raising money by selling the gold they had stolen from their houses, the agency said.
Mr. Mittal said simultaneous searches at 17 locations in Delhi’s Jaffrabad and Seelampur, besides Amroha, Hapur, Meerut and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh had led to seizure of about 25 kg of bomb-making materials like potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, sulphur and sugar material paste; 12 pistols, 150 rounds of ammunition, a country-made rocket launcher, 112 alarm clocks, mobile phone circuits, batteries, 51 pipes and a remote-controlled car’s triggering switch. Steel containers, wires, 91 mobile phones, 134 SIM cards, three laptops, a knife and sword, IS-related literature and about ₹7.5 lakh in cash were also found.
The seizures indicated that plans were on to configure improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which included pipe bombs.
According to the NIA, arrested accused Anas Yunus, a Jaffrabad resident, is pursuing civil engineering. He played a key role in procuring electrical items, alarm clocks and batteries. Rashid Zafar Raq, also from Jaffrabad, is in the garments business. Saeed and his brother Raees are from Amroha and have welding shops.
The brothers had procured huge quantities of explosive material/gun powder (about 25 kg) for preparing the IEDs and pipe bombs and were instrumental in fabricating a rocket launcher, said the agency.
Accused Zubair Malik and his brother Zaid arranged batteries, connectors, SIM cards on fake documents and also mobilised funds. Saqib Iftekar, a resident of Hapur, works as an Imam and had helped Suhail procure weapons, said the NIA. The other two arrested persons are auto-rickshaw driver Mohammed Irshad and Mohammed Azam, who runs a chemist shop.
The agencies are trying to establish the identity of the module’s handler who interacted with the group members in multiple languages. Some more arrests are likely soon. The operation was carried out after the NIA registered a case against Suhail and others on December 20.