The Indian Mujahideen, a dreaded militant organisation, had planned to blow up premier institutes such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).
Shahzad Ahmed, alias Pappu (21), an IM operative arrested by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of the Uttar Pradesh Police on Monday from Azamgarh, has told interrogators that the plan was to strike during the counselling sessions to inflict maximum damage. Students attend the counselling sessions held by technical institutes just before the commencement of the academic session to allot streams of study.
A prize catch, Shahzad is wanted for serial blasts in Delhi's Karol Bagh, Greater Kailash, Tilak Marg and Connaught Place areas on September 13, 2008 and for involvement in the Batla House encounter.
Two IM operatives and a decorated police officer, M.C. Sharma, were killed in the encounter that took place on September 19, 2008.
Delhi Police, which believes that Shahzad had fired the fatal burst that killed Sharma, had announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh for his arrest.
A Delhi Police team has air-dashed to Lucknow to question him and may seek a transit remand to take him to Delhi for further interrogation. Sources said the probe would also focus on his Iraq connections.
In ATS custody, Shazad told interrogators he was assigned the task of raising a youth brigade trained to carry out strikes anywhere in the country.
As part of this assignment, given to him by one Atif Amin (the alleged IM kingpin killed in the Batla House encounter), Shahzad had already sent some youths for training overseas, UP ATS chief Brij Lal said.
He had planted bombs at India Gate and had plans to strike in Indore, too, the ATS chief said.
Shahzad was arrested on Monday from Rahmani Manzil, Qureshia School Campus in Azamgarh, where he was living for the past couple of months. He was produced in court on Tuesday.
Barring a 10-second photo opportunity for the visual and print media, journalists were not allowed to talk to him.