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Abdul Subhan Qureshi’s journey from being a quiet boy to ‘bin Laden of India’

Qureshi’s journey into terrorism started in 2001 when he left a reputed computer firm to pursue religious activities.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2018 20:53 IST
Presley Thomas
Presley Thomas
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
2008 serial blasts,Ahmedabad serial blasts,Gujarat blasts
Abdul Subhan Qureshi alias Tauqeer, an alleged co-founder of terrorist outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM), was listed in the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) most-wanted list.(Arvind Yadav / HT Photo)

Abdul Subhan Qureshi’s journey as a terrorist began in 2001 when he left a reputed computer firm to pursue religious activities and went on to edit Islamic Voice – the mouthpiece of the banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

Qureshi alias Tauqeer, suspected of being involved in the serial blasts in Gujarat and Delhi in 2008, was arrested by Delhi Police after a gunfight on Saturday night following a tip-off. He figured in the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) most-wanted list.

Investigators looking for details about the alleged top bomb-maker of the Indian Mujahideen had little clue about who indoctrinated Qureshi, a quiet boy in school who was labelled as the Osama bin Laden of India.

Qureshi had become a staunch SIMI activist by 1998 and, sources in the police said, also attended its conference in 1999 at Aligarh, which was addressed by the founder and spiritual leader of Palestine’s Hamas Sheikh Ahmed Yasin.

READ MORE: 2008 Ahmedabad blast accused among two terror suspects arrested from Gaya.

Many believe that Qureshi was indoctrinated by Sadiq Israr, the arrested co-founder of Indian Mujahideen and a resident of Cheetah camp in Mumbai, along with Salim Mujahid Islahi from Hyderabad.

Islahi was shot dead in 2004 when a team of Gujarat police officials opened fire to disperse a mob that tried to prevent the arrest of Maulana Naseeruddin, an accused in the murder of former Gujarat minister Haren Pandya.

An officer of Delhi Police’s special cell said Qureshi held the top rank in SIMI after the arrest of its general secretary Safdar Nagori from Madhya Pradesh’s Indore in March 2008.

The 45-year-old’s name cropped up for the first time in the list of wanted terrorists when Indian Mujahideen operatives sent out emails claiming responsibility for the blasts in Uttar Pradesh, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi between 2007 and 2008.

Counter-terrorism agencies of various states believed that the emails sent by Qureshi, who had been travelling across the country meeting and indoctrinating youth, and plotting blasts across the country.

But arrests of Indian Mujahideen cadre by the Mumbai Police’s crime branch in September 2008 revealed that the emails sent by Mohammed Asghar Peerbhoy, a Pune-based engineer who worked for Yahoo.

It gave enough time for Qureshi, an alleged co-founder of terrorist outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM), to slip under the radar and disappear. Qureshi’s presence in Nepal was established much later after his close associate Haseeb Raza was arrested by Gujarat police in 2010.

READ MORE: 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts accused nabbed from Karnataka.

But the Intelligence Bureau mobilised its sleuths to nab Qureshi only in 2011. Qureshi, who had been alerted about Haseeb’s arrest, left the hideout known to Haseeb and the sleuths returned empty-handed.

“Raza knew the precise details because he had stayed with Qureshi in Nepal,” a senior Gujarat police officer, requesting anonymity, said.

Since then little was heard of Qureshi, who did not get in touch even with his mother. She now lives on Mumbai’s Mira Road.

Qureshi told the police during initial interrogation that he fled to Nepal through the border in Bihar in 2008, soon after his name surfaced in the July 2008 Ahmedabad serial bombings probe.

Qureshi worked as a school teacher and again came in touch with Riyaz Bhatkal, founder member of IM, in Nepal where he lived until early 2015. He even managed to procure a Nepalese voter’s ID card and passport, said police.

“In February-March 2015, on Bhatkal’s instructions he went to Saudi Arabia to arrange finances needed for the revival of the weak and scattered network of Indian Mujahideen in India,” Pramod Singh Kushwah, deputy commissioner of police (special cell), said.

“After returning from Saudi Arabia in June 2017, Qureshi began visiting India clandestinely to indoctrinate unemployed youth among the community and fill the space left void by the fall of the top IM leaders,” Kushwah added.

As investigators are trying to piece together information about the Mumbai man, a Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) officer said his six brothers and sisters are well-educated and not inclined to anti-national activities.

Qureshi’s journey into terrorism has stunned his teachers at Antonio De Souza High School in Byculla. A teacher requesting anonymity said that he was not the kind of student who would score a 90% in mathematics or any subject but he would do better than many others in his class.

Qureshi scored 76.6% in his secondary school examination in 1988 and obtained a diploma in industrial electronics from Bharatiya Vidyapeeth at Kharghar in 1995. He also did a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) course from CMS Institute in Marol and worked for Datamatics.

First Published: Jan 22, 2018 15:20 IST