He is Lashkar-e-Taiba’s (LeT) first bomb expert to emerge from the hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh, but he remained elusive for India’s intelligence agencies for almost two decades.
On Friday, top LeT operative and bomb expert Syed Abdul Karim alias Tunda was arrested and brought here by India’s external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) following a carefully calibrated operation in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
The 70-year-old Tunda is a man of many trades. He used to run dye, garment and perfume businesses in India and Pakistan. Hailing from Pilkhuwa in Uttar Pradesh, little information is available about Tunda’s radicalisation, yet his name figured prominently in what is considered to be the first major jihadi operation outside Jammu and Kashmir. Tunda and his associates Azam Ghouri and Dr Jalees Ansari carried out synchronised strikes on more than a dozen trains on December 6, 1993, the first anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition.
Before that the trio had carried out more than 40 minor bomb blasts in Maharashtra but did not catch the attention of security agencies. After the multiple bomb blasts of 1993, investigators arrested Dr Ansari who gave a detailed account of activities of Tunda.
“Tunda has the tendency of behaving like a humble old man; this also helped him stay out off the radar of security agencies,” a counter-terror official said. “Although Tunda was not in the first rung of operatives of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed’s LeT or Jamaat-ud-Dawa, he still knows quite a lot about the operations of the terror outfit in India. He is basically a ‘talent spotter’ or a recruiter.”
In 1996, Tunda he executed around two dozen low-intensity blasts in Delhi and around.
He was spotted several times in Bangladesh by Indian intelligence assets, as he was using the country as a base for recruiting and directing terror operatives from India. He was also seen in Saudi Arabia and UAE for the same purpose.
“In the last few years, Tunda had become very religious,” a source said. “He was spotted again in Nepal a few weeks back, where he was trying to open a madrassa. At that time his identity was not clear. He was identified almost a month back and since then he was under surveillance, even during his travels to West Asia.”