Pakistan-born Canadian writer and liberal activist Tarek Fatah was one of the six prime targets of the four terror suspects, arrested by the UP Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) from different parts of the country on Thursday.
Fatah was a target as he was seen as being opposed to the Shariat law and an advocate of liberal and progressive form of Islam.
ATS officials told HT that by targeting Fatah and the others, the terror suspects wanted to create sensation and show their presence in the country.
A senior ATS official said terror suspect Umar alias Nazim, who was arrested from Mumbai, had done a recce to target the writer during one of his visits to Mumbai. He said the suspect used to watch the writer’s show on a popular television channel and keep tab on his movement in India. The official said some of Fatah’s activities and statements had been criticised by Muslim groups.
“The four suspects, however, gradually realised and it was not easy to target the writer so they also prepared an alternative plan to target some more places and persons to show their presence,” said the official.
Asim Arun, inspector general (IG) of police, ATS, said the writer was one the terror suspects’ targets but they dropped the idea as they were unable to track his movements.
Arun said they later planned to target a Shia worship place in Amroha’s Naugawa Saadat. He added that an alert has been sounded in Amroha, Bijnore and Muzaffarnagar after startling revelations made by Mufti alias Faizan (who was arrested from Bijnore) and Zaqwan alias Ehtesham (who was arrested from Narkatiyaganj, Bihar), during rigorous interrogation.
Faizan and Ehtesham were on Saturday taken on eight-day remand by ATS sleuths for further quizzing. The two other suspects, Umar and Ghazi Baba (who was arrested from Jalandhar), were produced in the court of special chief judicial magistrate on Monday after being brought to Lucknow on transit remand. The court sent them to judicial custody till May 4. The ATS will move court on Tuesday to seek their police remand.
The IG said the terror suspects had planned a bomb attack at some crowded place in Haridwar, Uttarakhand during some holy gathering. He said they also had plans to eliminate a police officer in Mumbai and set ablaze a sugar mill in Narkatiyaganj, Bihar. “They were also planning to target some gas cylinder shop or battery shop located in a crowded place so that it could cause major damage,” he said.
Arun confirmed that the four suspects had even made advance payments to two persons of Bijnore to arrange gunpowder, firearms and ammunitions to be used for the attack but they were arrested before they could carry out their plan.