Items seized from Delhi and Amroha can make IEDs, says NIA
40 minutes. That’s how much time the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) in-house explosives expert said it would take him to fabricate a lethal Improvised Explosive Device (IED) from the explosives, clocks, batteries, nails and containers recovered from raids in Delhi and Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, on December 28.
The expert’s assessment, shared by NIA investigators, belie opinions expressed by several people about the primitive nature of the explosives and the weapons seized during the raids, from members of a radical terror group that called itself Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam, and which was inspired by Islamic State.
“So-called Sutli bombs, recovered from the premises of module members, are the easiest available source of explosives. It is not the first time that IS or al-Qaeda inspired groups have experimented with fire crackers or match sticks to procure explosives. Several videos are available on the Internet showing fabrication of IEDs using these materials. The alleged kingpin of the module, Mufti Mohammed Suhail was watching these videos on YouTube. His computer is being forensically examined ,” said a senior NIA official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Sutli, literally twine bombs are popular fire-crackers and burst during several functions and festivals. Other NIA officials said they have been used in the past.
In terror explosions at Chittoor (April 7, 2016), Kollam (June 15, 2016), Mysore (August 1, 2016), Nellore (September 12, 2016) and Malappuram (November 1, 2016), low-grade explosives were taken out from fire crackers such as Sutli bombs to fabricate IEDs, they add.
NIA investigators say there is a handbook, “The Mujahideen Explosives Handbook” written by an explosives expert Abdel Aziz is available online detailing how this can be done. Aziz was associated with an outfit named Organisation of Preparation of Mujahideen or OPM, which is an affiliated group of the IS. The handbook was first published in 1996 and has remained in circulation since.
“Besides fire crackers, match sticks too have found favour with the Jihadists for procuring explosives available on them to light them. A Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) module was experimenting with match stick explosives in Bijnor in 2014 when an accidental blast forced them to flee from the city.
Similarly, the IED used in an attack outside a Bengaluru restaurant on December 28, 2014 was made from explosive mixture extracted from match sticks,” the first NIA official said. A second NIA official pointed to the explosives seized during the December 28 raids.
“The agency recovered around 25 kg explosive material which included Potassium Nitrate, Potassium Chlorate, Sulphur, Ammonium Nitrate and sugar from the premises of Suhail and Saeed, who runs a welding shop in Amroha. We also recovered 13 metal containers from the premises of Suhail in Amroha. Among them six were in the shape of galvanized iron pipes and the rest were steel containers that carry material between one kg to five kg. GI pipes were used in blasts Bijnor, the Bhopal-Ujjain train and even in the Bodh Gaya blasts October, 2013,” added this person.
On March 7, 2017, an IED exploded on the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train and forensic examination revealed the use of a mixture of Potassium Chlorate, Sulphur and Aluminum powder. These are used in manufacturing fire crackers as well.
NIA Investigators say Suhail started getting radicalised in 2010, but it was only in 2018 that he tried to form a group of like-minded radicals and started experimenting with bomb making.
“He came in touch with his online handler in the beginning of 2018, who started guiding him towards violent acts. The recoveries made from the group show that it planned serial blasts. The recovery of over 100 alarm clocks is an indicator that they wanted to fabricate IEDs in bulk. The group was even experimenting with a mobile phone timer, call bell remote control switch and a toy car remote control as triggers for the IEDs. The storage box of Suhail’s scooter was found stuffed with elbow pipes and batteries. We have also recovered a US-made pistol from Suhail with “army” engraved on it,” said the second NIA official.
Investigators also found bulb filaments from the premises of accused Saeed.
“Bulb filaments are used to cause explosion in low-grade explosives from the heat they generate. They were substitutes for detonators. Bulb filaments were used in blasts at Kollam, Nellore, Malappuarm, Bijnor and in the Ujjain-Bhopal train,” said the second official.
The group had also procured metal balls and nails to use as shrapnel in the IEDs to make them more lethal, this person said.
“Terrorists are using innovative methods by using commonly available material to fabricate their IEDs. With this kind of recovery, under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the accused will prove what exactly they wanted to do with this kind material which otherwise had no use for them. The agency may also seek a forensic opinion on the material recovered to prove that it could be easily be used for fabricating an IED,” said NR Wasan, former IPS officer who was acting chief of the NIA before retiring as the head of the Bureau of Police Research and Development.
The 10 people arrested after the raids are being questioned by NIA.
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