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Web of fear: North, West via East

The arrest of two men in Delhi on May 8 led to the discovery of a terror network that shook the security agencies, writes Tushar Srivastava.

india Updated: Jul 14, 2006 04:18 IST

May 8, 2006: Rahil’s name first surfaced on the intelligence radar. And on July 11, he became one of the country’s most wanted terrorists. The Mumbai police suspect the mastermind of October’s pre-Diwali blasts in Delhi to be the brain behind Tuesday’s serial explosions on Mumbai’s suburban trains.

Rahil, a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative, had allegedly planned and executed last year’s Delhi blasts killing over 60 people. In the second week of April, the Delhi police special cell had received information that Lashkar was planning a major strike in the capital.

On the basis of the leads, the police on May 8 busted a LeT sleeper cell in the capital. Two militants — Firoz Latif Ghaswala alias Abdullah and Mohammed Ali Chhipa alias Ubedullah — were arrested from Nizamuddin railway station with four kilograms of RDX, four detonators and Rs 50,000 in cash.

Interrogation revealed that the consignment was meant for Mohammed Iqbal alias Abu Hamza, a Pakistani Lashkar commander, whom they had to meet the same evening near the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium. Three special cell teams set up an ambush and Hamza was shot dead in an encounter.

Subsequent search of Hamza's Ballabhgarh (Haryana) residence shocked the police. The raids threw up 2 AK-56 rifles, six magazines, 179 cartridges, 10 hand grenades, five kg of PETN explosives, three litres of nitric acid, one litre of glycerine, three kilograms of urea, a satellite phone and a computer.

Abdulla and Ubedullah spilled the beans about a terrorist network that shook the security agencies. They said the Lashkar's network spread across Gujarat to Mumbai in the west and covered Delhi and Kashmir in the north.

The fact that Lashkar was scoping out Mumbai was first revealed by the duo. The information was conveyed to the Mumbai police, which recovered huge caches of AK 47s and RDX from different parts of the state. Rahil had even planned to target the film award functions in the south and a meeting of film producers in Mumbai. But both the bids were foiled after which he fled his Mahim hideout.

Rahil, say intelligence officers, is a smart young man who has worked his way up the outfit to become one of the most influential operatives outside Kashmir. A recruiter, he sent boys for training to Pakistan and Bangladesh. According to intelligence agencies, Rahil had managed to brainwash several men in Gujarat and Mumbai and sent them to train under Lashkar commander Azam Cheema.