Behind one of the most prized catches of Indian security agencies, Syed Abdul Karim alias Tunda, there is a carefully calibrated intelligence operation across three nations spanning almost two decades.
The operation was being carried out by India’s external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Nepal.
Tunda, 72, is a man of many trades. He is believed to have run dye, garment and perfume businesses in India and Pakistan. And he was the first bomb expert of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), say counter terror officials.
Tunda hails from Pilkhuwa in Uttar Pradesh. There is little information available about his radicalisation but his name first figured prominently the synchronised bomb blasts on more than a dozen trains on December 6, 1993, the first anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition.
Apart from Tunda, names of his associates such as Azam Ghouri and Dr Jalees Ansari also figured in the blasts case.
Before these terror strikes, the group had carried out more than 40 minor bomb blasts in Maharashtra.
But they managed to evade the radar of the security agencies.
Ansari was arrested after the multiple blasts and he gave a detailed account of Tunda’s activities to the security agencies.
Ansari told investigators that he was introduced to Tunda by Azam Ghouri, a criminal-turned-jehadi from Andhra Pradesh, who was also offered a post in the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in 1999.
Tunda had told Ansari that he had money but he needed recruits. Tunda also told Ansari that he was trained in Pakistan. In early 1994, Tunda left India for Pakistan. Intelligence sources say Tunda was given shelter at the Muridke-based headquarters of Lashkar’s parent organisation Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad, which later became the Jamaat-ud-Dawa.
“Tunda behaves like a humble old man and it had helped him to evade arrest. He is basically a talent spotter or a recruiter for LeT,” said another counter terror official.
In 1996, Tunda carried out around two dozen low-intensity blasts in Delhi and other cities.
After this Tunda was spotted by Indian intelligence assets in Bangladesh. He was also seen in Saudi Arabia and UAE for recruiting jehadis.
“In the past few years, Tunda had become very religious.
He was spotted again in Nepal a few weeks ago. He was trying to start a madarsa in Nepal. At that time, his identity was not clear. Indian intelligence operatives said he was another Hafiz Saeed man sent to coordinate recruiting activities. He was under surveillance for the past one month,” said a source.
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