When Safdar Nagori was arrested from his rented accommodation in Indore this year, some offices at South Block in New Delhi celebrated, and in style. After all it had taken six years of hard work to track their most wanted man.
Nagori’s arrest was termed as the most significant one in India’s war on terror. Security agencies expected that his revelations would be a turning point in dismantling perhaps the most comprehensive terror network.
In follow-up exercises, the agencies arrested 39 top ranking SIMI leaders in various states. Nagori who appeared unfazed with his arrest was interrogated by senior police officers of 11 states. He was open to all topics and spoke frankly. Within a week, the agencies got insight to his network and plans — like the ones executed back-to-back in Bangalore and Ahmedabad.
But call it complacency or political compulsions his revelations couldn’t excite the security agencies the way his arrest did, despite many of his startling disclosures — he had parted ways with SIMI and floated his own group that he called Muslim Technical Persons Organisation.
It was a group that was formed in Hyderabad to create a pool of young Muslim technocrats. But his men primarily looked for computer professionals and those with know-how of chemicals.
He told his interrogators that this pool of technocrats function independently and through groups that serve as smokescreens. The first terror module run by the techies was cracked last year in Bangalore with the arrest of Shibly Peedicaal Abdul, Raziuddin Nasir and Yahya Kamakutty — computer professionals who played a role in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings.
They were operating through Sarani — a religious front organisation. The trio as leaders of a terror cell planning serial bombings in many cities had recruited local men. Behind the scene they were preparing for a war.
They had all left successful careers in MNCs and set up their own firm. Most of their recruits were from multinational companies. Their disclosures drove the agencies to Indore where Nagori was working on other terror projects.
“I wanted educated people with same level of conviction I have,” Nagori told his interrogators. He argued he was an ‘extremist’ rather than a ‘fundamentalist’. Like others, he said, his actions were not driven only by religious conviction, but anger against atrocities on Muslims worldwide.
In India it was demolition of the Babri mosque and pogrom in Gujarat. Why technocrats in his terror ring? His take: the techies are excellent at planning and execution. And they don’t easily catch eye.
But Home Ministry sources said Nagori was working religiously on the guidelines given by the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba in 2004. The architect of the Mumbai blasts and SIMI’s general secretary Ehtesham Siddiqui following his arrest had bared the change in tack.
The LeT has been eyeing the techies and depend largely on SIMI and Nagori, he told investigators. The first all-techie meet was organised from July 4-7, 2006, at Ujjain where plans to revitalise jihad in India were discussed.
Several members of his cell that executed the Mumbai blasts participated in this meet. A ministry official admits the agencies indeed miscalculated the enormity of Nagori’s hi-tech terror ring.
“May be agencies got bit complacent after his arrest and could not heed the writing on the wall,” he said referring to arrest of a computer professional Mufti Bashar from Azamgarh in the Ahmedabad blast case. Another master computer hacker Tauqeer Bilal said to be associated with Nagori’s group is on the run.