The four alleged Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) operatives, arrested from Odisha’s Rourkela city on February 17, were planning 10 motorbike blasts at the month-long Simhastha in Ujjain in April-May, police sources said on Friday.
They had drawn a detailed plan to park 10 motorbikes strapped with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at the crowded religious fair, the Odisha police sources said.
The four men -- three of whom Sheikh Mehboob, Zakir Hussain, Amjad Khan had escaped from Tantya Bheel Jail in Khandwa district on October 1, 2013 -- are being interrogated by the Odisha police.
Police sources said they were planning the Ujjain attack to avenge the loss of 60-plus lives in the 2013 riots in West UP’s Muzaffarnagar district and the Babri demolition in Ayodhya in 1992.
The motorbikes to be used for the planned Ujjain attack were either lifted or purchased at cheaper rates in Odisha. The funds for sourcing explosives were to be generated through a bank loot planned in Chhattisgarh in March.
Five of the 10 motorbikes have been recovered from parking lots in Chhattisgarh, where they had been left by the SIMI men to carry out the bank loot in March.
The four men had planned to use motorbikes strapped with IEDs to trigger blasts in and around Muzaffarnagar, including an RSS camp, in 2014. But the plan got foiled due to an explosion of a preparatory explosive at a rented house in West UP’s Bijnor district.
One of the SIMI men, Sheikh Mehboob alias Guddu, had sustained severe burns in that explosion inside the house in which the operatives of the banned outfit were living in Bijnor.
Odisha man helped Khandwa jail inmates?
Investigators are probing a possibility of a man from Odisha lodged with the SIMI men in MP’s Khandwa Jail in 2013 having played a key role in getting local support and rented houses to the fugitives, after they escaped from the jail.
The jail inmate, who hails from Odisha’s Sundergarh district, is believed to have helped the SIMI fugitives through local contacts in Bisra area of Sundergarh and also adjoining districts.
Investigations have revealed the SIMI men had secured on rent at least five houses in Rourkela, Sambalpur and Bhadrak districts.
The Nanga Mahal-Bhadrak house was to be used by them as hideout after the planned terror strike at Simhastha.
The SIMI men, who used the five rented house as shelter after committing crime elsewhere in the country, lived in the guise of bed-sheet and artificial flower sellers.
They had managed to get banks accounts opened in Odisha with fake IDs, through the help of an LIC agent, who has been arrested.
“The arrested men never committed any terror act in Odisha, but were using it as a safe haven. We are also zeroing in on people in Odisha and outside who helped the SIMI men develop Odisha as a safe hideout,” Odisha special director general of police (crime) BK Sharma told HT over phone on Friday.
He said possibility of these men having made some local sleeper cells and modules in Odisha is under scanner
Hand suspected in West Bengal blasts
A police team from Kolkata, has reached Bhubaneshwar to grill the four SIMI men over possible involvement in two blasts in West Bengal in 2015.
Odisha police sources said the Kolkata team will quiz the arrested men in connection with suspected links to a blast on board Sealdah-Krishnanagar passenger train in West Bengal, which left 15 passengers injured on May 13.
They are also under scanner for their alleged role in a blast at a naval shipping factory also in West Bengal in September.
The SIMI men have confessed their involvement in several terror cases, including blasts outside two police stations in Pune in July 2014, blast aboard the Bengaluru-Guwahati train at Chennai railway station in May 2014 and outside a temple in Tatanagar (Jharkhand) in 2015.
A three-member team from country’s foreign intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is grilling the arrested men about their alleged foreign funding and links with terror outfits in Pakistan and Bangladesh.