Delhi Police arrested three suspected operatives of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group and recovered explosives after a six-month covert operation on Wednesday, possibly thwarting a series of planned blasts in the Capital.
Special commissioner of police (Special Cell) Arvind Deep told HT the three men — Sajid, Sameer and Shakir Ansari — were making improvised explosive devices (IED) to strike markets and crowded places in the city.
The trio was arrested during late-night raids in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh after a police informer managed to infiltrate the group. Police said the alleged mastermind, Sajid, was in touch with JeM leader ‘Tallah’, who says he is the brother of the terror outfit’s founder, Masood Azhar.
His associate Shakir – a resident of Deoband in Uttar Pradesh – was planning to go to Pakistan for militant training, police said. The trio also radicalised nine men, who are under the police scanner.
“The recovered IEDs were to be used for carrying out explosions at sensitive locations of Delhi NCR. They have disclosed several backward and forward linkages which are being worked upon,” an official said.
Police described the trio — who were sent to 10 days police custody — as “self-radicalised”.
The arrests come four months after six suspected JeM militants entered the Pathankot air base and killed seven soldiers in a bloody gun battle. Bilateral relations between India and Pakistan plummeted after the attack as New Delhi demanded action against the the outfit.
India attempted to get Azhar — the alleged mastermind of the Pathankot attacks — sanctioned at the United Nations last month but the move was blocked by China, triggering tensions between the two nations.
Police said the group used to meet at Sajid’s house in northeast Delhi for at least two years and watched jihadi videos and Azhar’s speeches on social media.
They also interacted with members of pro-jihadi pages on Facebook and got in touch with Tallah through the social media website.
They later exchanged numbers and regularly used Whatsapp to communicate, police added.
Police said they recovered from Sajid’s house an IED, a damaged IED and raw materials -- three case iron pipes, two timer clocks, 11 batteries, M-seal adhesive and black explosives. They also found a dummy IED that was used for training and demonstration purposes by the accused.
But the suspected militant’s sister Mehsabi told HT the material in the basement was machine oil, carbon and iron bolts used in sewing machines.
“They were no chemicals or explosives. We always kept the basement open and even the kids used to go there. Why would we allow kids entry into the basement if we were assembling bombs here,” she said.
Investigators are probing if Tallah’s is Azhar’s brother, sources said.
Sources said a police informer managed to enter Sajid’s module and was present in all their meetings.
“We were monitoring them since December. We knew about their meeting at Sajid’s Chand bagh house. After March 2016, some of them started taking sudden and quiet journeys beyond the national capital region. There were late night meetings held and some members were spending more time at certain markets which raised suspicion,” said Deep.
On Monday night, Sajid burnt the palm of his left hand while preparing an IED, prompting the police to raid the premises and arrest the trio. Police arrested Sajid from Chand Bagh, Sameer Ahmad from Loni in Ghaziabad, and Shakir Ansari from UP’s Deoband.
One of the most notorious militant groups in the regions, the JeM carried out the 2001 Parliament attack that left eight people dead. Its leader Azhar is among India’s most wanted criminals and works as JeM’s chief financer, recruiter and motivator, according to dossiers submitted by India to the UN.