On June 24 at 7.54pm, a member of the Hyderabad module of the Islamic State (IS) said to another, “Kaam ko anjam dene ka waqt aa gaya hai, isliye phone kiya (the time to finish the work has come, that’s why I called you)”.
Sleuths of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) listening to the conversation understood it was time to pick them up.
The detention and arrest of 11 IS sympathisers in Hyderabad by the NIA early Wednesday was the culmination of more than a six-month-long operation in which they were kept under watch by security agencies. While five sympathisers were formally arrested, the verification of the others is on. The NIA recovered `15 lakh, six laptops, 40 mobile phones and 32 SIM cards from them.
At 10.53pm on Sunday, another conversation was intercepted in which a group member told another to arrange for four pieces each of cow and buffalo meat. Seven more pieces of meat were to be arranged on Monday.
These lawfully intercepted conversations will form an important part of evidence against the suspects during trial.
“The plan was to throw the meat pieces in temples in Hyderabad to coincide with serial blasts they had planned. They had gathered explosives to fabricate around 30-40 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on short notice. They had tested the IEDs as well. The action could have happened on Wednesday itself,” said an investigator who spoke on condition of anonymity.
NIA chief Sharad Kumar said that it was a new group of alleged IS sympathisers who are well-educated -- 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,” said Kumar.
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.