The group of alleged Islamic State sympathisers arrested in Hyderabad managed to successfully test an improvised explosive device (IED) and intended to use it for carrying serial blasts in the city, sources said.
The detention and arrest of 11 IS sympathisers were the culmination of more than a six-month long operation in which they were kept under watch by security agencies.
In a lawfully intercepted call by the NIA, two members of the group discussed the test of an item which was successful. The conversation also noted that the item had a range of around 70 metres and it was tested with using sand bags as well.
The conversation took place on Friday, June 24, five days before they were picked up and will form an important part of evidence against the suspects during a trial.
“They were definitely discussing the fabrication of an IED. They had gathered enough explosives to make at least 30 to 40 IEDs which they intended to use anytime in the city. This was the first group of IS-sympathisers busted so far in the country that managed to make IED,” a senior NIA official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.
The NIA initially summoned 11 men in connection with their linkages with the group.
Five of them named in the FIR - Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani alias Ibbu, 30, Habeeb Mohammed alias Sir, 32, Mohammed Ilyas Yazdani, 24, Abdullah Bin Ahmed Al Amoodi alias Fahad 31, and Muzaffar Hussain Rizwan, 29 - were formally arrested on Wednesday.
According to an NIA spokesperson, the remaining six men called for questioning along with the five formally arrested were released late on Wednesday night but have been summoned for questioning again on Thursday.
During searches at the hideouts of the group, the agency recovered chemicals suspected to be urea/Ammonium Nitrate powder and their mixture with sugar, as well as bottles containing mineral acid, Acetone, Hydrogen Peroxide that are precursor substances for making deadly explosive substances.
“Our forensic experts have found the explosives recovered to be of very high quality,” said the NIA official.
NIA chief Sharad Kumar said that the alleged IS sympathisers are well-educated and at least two of them are engineers while one is a management graduate.
“They are from well-to-do families. They were in touch with an IS handler known as Yusuf al-Hindi, who is believed to be Syria,” Kumar said.
Intelligence agencies suspect al-Hindi to be Shafi Armar, a Bhatkal native who started the terror outfit Indian Mujahideen and later went to Afghanistan to fight the US. As the IS brand expanded, al-Hindi, along with other associates, reached Syria join its fighters.
The group had procured two 9mm Chinese pistols from Nanded in Maharashtra and an air gun as well -- these were used by the sympathisers to practice target shooting at an isolated place in Hyderabad.