A suspected al Qaeda operative was arrested early on Wednesday at a village in Odisha’s Cuttack district by a joint team of state and Delhi Police.
An officer said 37-year-old Abdur Rehman was held after tracking his phone calls to Paschimgachha village, about 30km from Bhubaneswar. This was the first arrest of a local man for alleged terror links in the coastal state.
Sources said Rehman did his schooling in a madrasa or religious seminary and completed higher studies in Islamic theology from Deoband in Uttar Pradesh. He runs a madrasa at Tangi in Cuttack district, where most of his students are said to be from Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.
“A mobile phone, a passport and a tablet were seized from him following the raid. Preliminary investigation revealed that Rehman worked as an organiser, felicitator and recruiter of al Qaeda’s Indian wing,” Bhubaneswar police commissioner RP Sharma said.
The top officer said Rehman, a father of three, was wanted by Delhi Police after its special cell lodged a case against several terror operatives.
The suspect was taken to Delhi for interrogation after a court in Cuttack approved his transit remand.
Rehman is allegedly a key operative of the al Qaeda Indian Sub-continent (AQ-IS), that was formed in September 2014 to expand the terror group’s footprint in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
He is said to have gone to Pakistan for training along with another operative, Mohammed Asif of Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh, in 2013. Asif has already been arrested by Delhi Police.
Rehman allegedly has links with terror operatives in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.
Besides, he is found to have links with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Dubai and London, an officer said.
Investigating agencies are probing if he has terror plans in Odisha.
In 2001, his elder brother Tahir Ali was arrested in Kolkata in connection with the terror attacks on the American embassy there.
Wednesday raid follows the arrest of Ramchandran Subash, a Tamil Nadu native, in November for burning five compartments of three trains at Puri station.
The National Investigation Agency is trying to find out if Subash was involved in similar incidents of train arson which could a coordinated dummy run of terror groups.