Atif alias Bashir (24), allegedly the head of the shadowy Indian Mujahideen (IM) who died in a police encounter on Friday in Jamia Nagar, had emerged from the ranks of the radical faction of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India that he joined in 2001.
“He was among the 50-odd Ansars (senior whole-timers) of the SIMI before the chief of the group’s pro-jihad faction, Safdar Nagori, and a few other senior leaders decided to split off its strike arm as a secret, autonomous entity, IM,” Intelligence Bureau’s former Joint Director (counter-terrorism desk) Maloy Dhar told HT.
Confirming the fact, Special cell’s chief, joint commissioner of police Karnal Singh told HT, “Atif aka Bashir had joined the SIMI in 2001 and probably split off from the group later, according to the information on him that his arrested aide Mohammed Saif has given us.”
“Most IM members are young and in the age profile of 18-24 years,” said DCP Abhay Chudasama of Gujarat Police.
Singh added, “We have identified the man who radicalised him and recruited him into SIMI for the cause of jihad”. Singh said, “Atif was careful about not getting tracked that he had directed his men to not carry mobile phones while preparing for a serial blast.”
“He carried a SIM-less phone to Jaipur to take a photo of a cycle used in the blasts on May 13 there which was then attached in an IM terror email sent a day later. We have seized this phone,” said Singh.
Among the suspects in the police scanner could be Azamgadh’s Khalid Khareban, an absconding ansar of SIMI and associate of Nagori/Abdus Subhan Qureshi, said a senior IB officer. According to Ahmedabad blasts’s alleged mastermind Abu Bashar’s confession (a copy is with HT), also from Azamgadh, it was Khareban who ‘recruited’ him into SIMI in 2002.
According to Singh, “It was Atif who supervised the training given to his men in and around Azamgadh.” The interrogations of Atif’s arrested aides, Mohammed Saif (a computer student) and Zeeshan Ahmed (working with the city-based Monarch International firm), will un-spool more details on this.
Singh’s team is also probing to establish the “deadly combination” among the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba’s India handlers, Atif, and Qureshi. “We know who were the Lashkar contacts of Atif, and Qureshi. We have specific inputs from the intelligence agencies on this” said Singh. Singh said, “Atif was the decision maker, though he got considerable help from the Qureshi’s modules to carry off blasts in Ahmedabad, Jaipur, and probably Bangalore too. Atif’s modules, we suspect, are in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Gujarat.”