The 14 men, arrested by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) and state counter-terrorism units in a nationwide crackdown last week for their alleged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iran and Al-Sham (ISIS), were not ‘lone wolves’.
Apart from revealing the potential security threats on Delhi and Mumbai, Mudabbir Sheikh, the amir (chief) of ISIS’s Indian wing — Ansar-ut Tawhid fi Bilal al-Hind — and Khalid Ahmed Ali alias Rizwan, Sheikh’s deputy have allegedly told the interrogators about a crucial meeting of the members of the outfit that was held late last year in Lucknow. Plans to recruit, finance and carry out attacks were allegedly discussed.
The Lucknow meeting, now the prime focus of the investigations, was also attended by Akhlaq-ur-Rehman, Mohammed Osama, Mohammed Azim and Mohammed Mehraj, who were arrested for purportedly planning a terror strike during the Ardh Kumbh Mela to be held at Haridwar, police sources said.
In fact, the stage to carry out a terror strike was nearly set, and raw materials to make IEDs were also delivered. A police source said pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), a highly-explosive organic compound, was delivered to Mohamed Hussain Jamil Khan, the 36-year-old businessman from Mazgaon, in Delhi.
Jamil told the investigators that he developed cold feet and he flushed the white powder down the toilet of his hotel room, the source added.
Central and state agencies are verifying Jamil’s versions and are trying to zero in on the person who handed over the explosives.
Investigations have also revealed that Mudabbir primarily focussed on recruitment and finance. He allegedly told the attendees of the meeting to recruit as many people as possible into the ISIS fold to wage ‘a large-scale war against the country’.
Mudabbir is believed to have been instructed by Shafi Armar alias Yusuf from Syria to recruit more people. Police sources said Shafi had promised Mudabbir that when he was satisfied with the recruitment and was ready to launch the attack, he would send foreign fighters in India to assist the Indian module of ISIS.
“The plan was to indoctrinate as many people as possible and Khalid had taken on the responsibility. He used to visit his recruits and talk to them,” said a senior police officer, who did not wish to be named.
War booty: ‘Men instructed to rob, extort, steal’
Police sources said that the top leaders of the Ansar-ut Tawhid fi Bilal al-Hind, the Indian wing of the Islamic State (ISIS), were asked to recruit more people
This is line with the outfit’s propaganda of wanting to unite all terrorist organisations operating out of Pakistan, train Indian recruits in Afghanistan and then stage attacks in India, said a police officer, who did not wish to be named.
Mudabbir had asked all recruits to do whatever possible to gather money, including asking the members to commit robbery for maal-e-ghanimat or war booty
“He told them to rob, extort, steal and do whatever possible to fill the coffers of ISIS’s India wing. While most of them agreed, Jamil refused to engage in robbery or theft-related activities. He, in fact, contributed Rs1.4 lakh,” the officer added.