The riot-torn and communally volatile Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh is in jihadi crosshairs and has become a new reference point for motivating new recruits joining terror modules, multiple counter-terror sources told HT.
“An accidental blast in a room in Muzaffarnagar’s neighbouring Bijnor town on September 12 revealed the presence of a suspected six-member module of outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) here. One member of the module got injured in the blast. Though, we have reasons to believe that the module was planning a terror strike in Muzaffarnagar. The members of the module are yet to be nabbed,” said a counter-terror official of UP police.
Central counter-terror officials say it was not the first time a terror strike was planned in Muzaffarnagar.
“In March, two suspected Pakistani nationals were arrested by the UP police who had been tasked with carrying out fidayeen attack. Again Muzaffarnagar was discussed as one of the targets,” said another counter-terror official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Delhi police arrested an alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Ejaz Sheikh from Saharanpur, a neighbouring town of Muzaffarnagar, on September 6.
“After his arrest, an ‘explosive draft email’ was allegedly recovered from Shiekh that had many references to Muzaffarnagar riots and how they should be avenged. The draft email was most likely sent by Sheikh’s key handler and IM’s top boss Riyaz Bhatkal, who is based in Karachi, Pakistan,” said the counter-terror official based in Delhi.
The Ranchi module of SIMI, led by Haidar Ali who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in May this year also allegedly spoke about Muzaffarnagar riots in his meetings where he used to spot new recruits.