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The 13 faces of terror

india Updated: Apr 02, 2008 01:27 IST
Abhishek Sharan
Abhishek Sharan
Hindustan Times
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IN A pre-dawn swoop, Indore police, armed with a tip-off from the Intelligence Bureau, arrested 13 top leaders of the banned Student’s Islamic Movement of India last Thursday.

The 13 men, including SIMI national secretary general Safdar Nagori, have allegedly been spinning a web of terror across the country since 2003 — by either plotting or offering logistical support to major terror attacks. They are accused of networking with Pakistan-based terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT), the Harkat ul Jihadi Islami (HuJI) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

SIMI members had helped the LeT plan as well as execute the serial bomb blasts on Mumbai locals in July 2006 that killed over 180 people.

Azam Cheema, who is the Bahawalpur-based LeT’s India operations chief in Pakistan, had sent 22 Pakistani operatives in three teams to Mumbai in April-May 2006, said sources in the Maharashtra police and the Intelligence Bureau.

These operatives joined 13 local men — 3 belonged to a Lashkar module, including alleged mastermind Faisal Sheikh, the remaining 10 were SIMI men led by alleged co-mastermind Asif Khan Basheer Khan alias Junaid — and jointly executed the serial blasts. There were seven teams that planted the RDX-based cocktail devices and the Pakistani bomb-makers were helped by SIMI operative Sajid Ansari, a professional mobile-repairer conversant with electronic gadgets, police sources said.

Apart from the 11/7 attack, anti-terror units from six states and the Intelligence Bureau are investigating the role of these 13 men in the blasts at the Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar on August 25, 2003, the October blasts across three cities in Uttar Pradesh and the two blasts in Hyderabad in May 2007.

Some of these men — like Nagori and his brother Qamruddin, Shibli and his brother Shahduli — had held three secret meetings in Karnataka where the attacks were plotted and organisational matters debated, said senior police officers in Hyderabad police and Karnataka police’s Corps of Detectives who are investigating the case.

The most important information that police hope to get out of these 13 is news on Adnan, a 30-something resident of Karnataka’s Bijapur district and Nagori’s confidante.

Adnan is believed to be a hyperactive SIMI terror organiser in south India, said a senior IPS officer with the Hyderabad police. “Adnan had taken a lead role in organising the three secret meetings of around 32 SIMI/Lashkar men that occurred in Karnataka late last year. A Hyderabad-based terror suspect — Mutasim Billah — has revealed that he had facilitated Adnan’s meetings with Pakistan-trained Lashkar suspect Riyazuddin Nasir. Both Nasir and Adnan then discussed possible attacks.”

While the Hyderabad police arrested Billah, the Karnataka police nabbed Nasir. Adnan, who is absconding, had fled from a hostel in Hubli, Karnataka, in January after the Karnataka police caught two of his associates —Nasir and Abu Baker on January 17.