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Group linked to Al Qaeda says it planted bomb in Ghazipur market: Police

Although the authenticity of the claim could not be established, agencies said they were taking the matter seriously and have sounded an alert in Delhi-National Capital Region and other states, including those that are headed for elections, the officers said
The bomb disposal squad of the NSG on Friday destroyed the IED through a controlled explosion. (Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times)
Updated on Jan 17, 2022 06:57 AM IST

Mujahideen Ghazwat-ul-Hind (MGH), an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group active in Kashmir, has claimed responsibility for planting an improvised explosive device (IED) at the Ghazipur flower market last week, said Delhi Police officers associated with the investigation, even as no arrests were made till late Sunday.

Although the authenticity of the claim could not be established, agencies said they were taking the matter seriously and have sounded an alert in Delhi-National Capital Region (Delhi-NCR) and other states, including those that are headed for elections, the officers said.

A Delhi Police officer associated with the probe and who asked not to be named said the group made the claim on a Telegram group, where it also claimed that “the IED did not explode due to technical glitches”.

According to the officer, the Telegram message was found during social media monitoring by intelligence gathering agencies. The same message was shared with the special cell that is investigating the IED recovery case.

“In the same message on the platform, the alleged terrorist outfit mentioned that the IED not going off does not mean their (the outfit’s) plan failed. Through the message, the outfit also warned agencies to prepare themselves for more such attempted terror strikes,” the officer said.

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The development has left central agencies as well as the top brass of the Delhi Police concerned, said the officer quoted above, since it could mean the possible entry of Kashmir-based terrorists into the national capital, especially since the attempted attack comes even as preparations for Republic Day celebrations are underway, and the dates for elections in five states – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur – have been declared.

Since the outfit’s claim was made through an encrypted platform, investigating agencies have found it difficult to ascertain the source of the message.

When contacted, Vijay Kumar, inspector general (IG) of the Jammu & Kashmir Police, said MGH has been in prominence recently and was reportedly started by a person named Khitab Kashmiri, who fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and is reportedly living in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Some senior Delhi Police officers working on terror-related cases said that they have reasons to believe that MGH is a front for the terrorist outfit Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGuH), which was formed by former Hizbul Mujahideen operative and Kashmiri terrorist Zakir Rashid Bhat, popularly known as Zakir Musa, who was killed by security forces in an encounter in May 2019.

Musa became the commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen after the killing of its top commander Burhan Wani in July 2016. However, in 2017, Musa left the terrorist outfit and formed Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind in Kashmir. After Musa’s killing, AGuH was led by Burhan Koka, a terrorist of Shopian district who was killed in April 2020, and some terrorists of Tral area in Pulwama district.

Asked if AGuH and MGH are the same outfit, J&K police IG Vijay Kumar said: “As of now, there is nothing to suggest that they are one and the same, but both share ideologies. Considering recent trends, where the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has been given a facade of The Resistance Front (TRF) and The People’s Anti-Fascist Force (PAFF), or Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) of the Kashmir Tiger Force, the MGH may also be an attempt to give a facade to AGuH.”

At 10.16am on January 14, the city police received a call that the owner of a scooter spotted an unclaimed black bag containing an iron box with white powder, tapes and wires around it on a pavement near Gate 1 of Delhi’s largest flower market.

Around 1.30 pm, the bomb detection and disposal squad of the National Security Guard (NSG) destroyed the IED through a controlled explosion that was carried out in an 8-feet pit hurriedly dug up with the help of an earthmover 100m from the spot where the bag was found.

The NSG later said the IED weighed roughly 3kg and likely consisted of powerful chemicals such as RDX and ammonium nitrate, while shrapnel was also seen in the device, which could have led to significant harm if detonated. The NSG’s bomb experts collected samples of the explosive items from both the places – where it was found and where it was destroyed – for further findings, a report of which is likely to be shared with the Delhi Police on Monday.

The special cell registered a case under the Explosive Act and took up the probe, primarily from the terror angle since the use of the RDX hinted the involvement of a terrorist outfit and the fact that the explosive substance was sourced from Pakistan. The investigating team has so far collected the footage over 200 CCTV cameras installed in the radius of nearly one kilometre from the spot where the IED was spotted.

“The cameras are installed on the routes leading to the flower market from Delhi as well as Uttar Pradesh. There are at least 10 points through which someone can reach the flower market from the eastern part of Delhi and from Ghaziabad and Noida. The place where the IED bag was kept was not covered by any of the cameras installed at the market’s entry and exit gates. Moreover, nobody has come forward to claim that he or she had seen anyone keeping that bag. We are trying to identify the suspect or suspects through other video footage,” said an investigator, who did not wish to be named.

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