The chief of Bangladesh-based terror outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami’s India operations and allegedly identified as a handler of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attackers by lone surviving gunman Mohammed Ajmal Kasab was arrested by the Hyderabad Police on Monday.
Sheikh Abdul Khwaja, 26, known to security outfits as Mohammed Amjad Khaja, a ‘most wanted’ terror suspect for five years, was nabbed by the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s external intelligence organisation in Colombo on Friday and taken to Chennai before being brought to Hyderabad for formal arrest on Monday.
Khwaja was allegedly involved in at least four major terror strikes in India over the past four years. These include the May 2007 Mecca Masjid attack in Hyderabad in which 14 people were killed and the November 2008 Mumbai attacks in which at least 101 people died.
Khwaja was also operating as a ranking Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) coordinator for India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Dubai and was involved in pumping counterfeit currency into India, security officials said.
A commerce graduate from Hyderabad’s Nampally College, Khwaja, had allegedly undergone terror training in camps in Pakistan run by the LeT and in Bangladesh by the Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HuJI) in 2002 and 2003. He headed the India operations of HuJi after his boss and childhood friend Mohammed Shahid Bilal was shot dead by masked gunmen in Karachi in August 2007, a senior security official told the HT.
Khwaja and Bilal had allegedly orchestrated the suicide attack on Hyderabad’s Special Task Force (STF) headquarters in October 2005. Khwaja told the police that he and his accomplices attacked the STF office to avenge the killing of Hyderabad youth Mujahid Saleem by a team from the Gujarat Police in the Andhra capital in 2004.