BJP, RSS leaders possible target for ISIS-inspired terror module: NIA
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday busted a terror cell in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh that was purportedly planning attacks on senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders, and in crowded markets, perhaps even as early as by the New Year. Ten people were arrested and a huge quantity of arms, including 12 pistols and a country-made rocket launcher, seized.
The agency said a pro-Islamic State (IS) terror group, Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam, was behind the planned attacks.
NIA inspector general Alok Mittal said the terror cell was “in an advanced stage” of preparations to carry out the attacks. “We have recovered huge quantities of ammunition along with Rs 7.5 lakh from their possession. We are examining the accused and more arrests are likely,” he said.
“On receipt of credible information that a group of pro-IS individuals have formed a terrorist gang and they are preparing to carry out terrorist attacks targeting vital installations, sensitive locations and crowded places in and around Delhi/NCR, NIA on December 20 registered a case under sections 120B, 121, 121A, 122 of IPC [Indian Penal Code], Sections 4 & 5 of the Explosive Substances Act and sections 17,18,18 B, 20,38 and 39 of the UA(P) Act against the mastermind of the module — Mufti Mohd. Suhail,” he added in a statement.
These sections cover criminal conspiracy, attempting to wage war against the Government of India, and violations of the Explosive Substances Act.
NIA arrested 10 people in Delhi, Amroha, Lucknow and Meerut after carrying out searches at 17 locations across Delhi and Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday morning, after tracking the group for at least four months.
“Their plan to carry out serial blasts was in an advanced stage. It could have been as early as on the New Year’s Eve. Senior RSS and BJP leaders were discussed as possible targets of the group which was under surveillance of the security establishment for over four months,” said a senior security official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
NIA investigators are probing whether the group planned to target the Republic Day parade as well. The agency has thus far managed to identify 16 members of the group.
Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam was probably put together by a planner from Afghanistan, the security official added. According to him, this person coordinated their training sessions and also helped with funds.
The local leader of the group has been identified as Mufti Mohammed Suhail, a native of the Jafarabad area of north-east Delhi who is currently a cleric in a mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Amroha.
“Suhail was in touch with the handler based outside the country through social media and instant messaging applications. Suhail, along with other members of the module, was preparing to launch a string of terror attacks targeting politicians, key locations and crowded places,” said a senior Uttar Pradesh Police anti-terrorism squad official associated with the probe who asked not to be named.
A 45-year old woman from Lucknow and her son are suspected of funding and managing the finances of the group.
Anas Yunus, a 24-year-old student of civil engineering at Amity University, Noida, was one of Suhail’s key assistants, NIA officials claimed, adding that all those arrested had been completely indoctrinated and radicalised and were even preparing suicide vests. .
“The handler of the group was in touch with the group over messaging applications, sometimes using the dark web to avoid surveillance,” said the security official.
Sharing more details, the UP anti-terror squad official added that Suhail completed a “mufti” course from a Deoband madrasa in Saharanpur and was living in Delhi. “But he frequently used to visit Amroha to build his group.”
His wife is believed to be from Amroha.
A UP anti -terror squad team led by superintendent of police VK Singh had been sent to Delhi to interrogate the arrested operatives to extract information about their possible targets, and the squad is considering strengthening security measures for the Kumbh mela to be held in Prayagraj from January 15 to March 4, the security official cited above said.
“Thousands of police personnel, as well as multiple teams of ATS commandos, are already deployed for security of the Kumbh,” he added.
Inspector general Mittal said that Suhail and his associates mobilised funds and procured weapons, ammunition and explosive material to prepare improvised explosive devices and bombs and planned to carry out explosions and fidayeen attacks at places of importance in and around Delhi.
NIA teams fanned out to six places in Jafrabad of Seelampur in Delhi, and 11 places in Uttar Pradesh — six in Amroha, two in Lucknow, two in Hapur and one in Meerut .
“The seized items include 25 kg of explosive material, such as potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, sulphur, sugar material paste; 12 pistols, 150 rounds of live ammunition, one country- made rocket launcher; 112 alarm clocks, mobile phone circuits, batteries, 51 pipes, remote control car triggering switch; wireless digital doorbell for remote switch, steel containers, electric wires, 91 mobile phones; 134 SIM cards, three laptops,
knife, sword, ISIS-related literature and a cash amount of Rs 7.5 lakh approximately,” said Mittal.
(Rohit K Singh in Lucknow contributed to this story)