nabbed Jalaluddin, the self-styled commander of dreaded terrorist outfit Harkat-ul Jihad-ul Islam (HuJI), on Saturday.
According to a top STF official, "Jalaluddin, better known by his pseudonym - Babu Bhai - was directly involved in the kidnapping of Khadim Shoes vice chairman Partho Roy Burman in July 2001. The business magnate was compelled to shell out a hefty ransom that eventually found its way to the Al Qaeda."
The STF, a crack group of Uttar Pradesh police, has reason to believe that a large chunk of the ransom money collected through kidnappings carried out in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh was used in the 9/11 attack on the twin-towers in New York.
Jalaluddin was arrested in Lucknow on a tip-off by central intelligence agencies from the neighbourhood of the Residency monument in the early hours of Saturday. Besides an AK-47 assault rifle and a Chinese pistol, the cops recovered more than nine kg of the lethal RDX explosive and detonators from him.
"Confessions made by Jalaluddin during interrogation revealed his connections with Umar Shaikh, one of the three notorious Pakistani terrorists released from Indian jails in exchange for the hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft in Kandhar on Dec 31, 1999," disclosed the STF official.
British-born Umar Shaikh was an alumni of the London School of Economics.
The STF, which has been in constant touch with top central intelligence and investigation agencies, believes that Jalaluddin is "one of the biggest terrorist catch in the country so far".
He has been high on the "wanted" list of West Bengal Police ever since his involvement in the kidnapping of Burman. "The shoe tycoon was compelled to shell out a ransom of Rs. 37.5 million against an initial demand of Rs. 50 million. Another ransom of Rs. 15 million is understood to have been grabbed from a coal merchant in Varanasi," said the official.
"The money was first converted into dollars and then handed over to Bangladesh-based Umar Shaikh, who in turn passed it on to Mohammad Atta, widely believed by US intelligence agencies to be one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks."
Jalaluddin confessed that he carted $15,600 from Bangladesh to India when Mohammad Atta returned the leftover cash after carrying out the mission.
The 40-year-old hails from a village in the backward 24 Parganas district of West Bengal and received his education in a Bangladesh madrassa before he starting off his career as an ordinary fruit-seller in Kolkata.
It was a chance contact with Asif Raza, the kingpin of the Khadim Shoes owner's kidnapping, that led to him making his debut in militancy. Asif Raza, who later turned out to be the first area commander of HuJI operations in India, initially appointed Jalaludin on a monthly dole of Rs. 2,000.
However, impressed by his potential, Asif sent Jalaluddin for training to ISI-run camps in Kotli region of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), along with 25 other Malaysian and African nationals, according to a dossier prepared on him by the STF. Following Asif's death in an encounter with the Gujarat police about two years ago, Jalaluddin was named as the new HuJI commander for India.
He had already confessed to planning major blasts in different parts of the country. A series of blasts were being planned during the forthcoming Sawan melas (monsoon fairs) at popular pilgrimage destinations in Uttar Pradesh like Varanasi, Ayodhya and Garh Mukhteshwar over the coming months, the STF claimed.