After Kerala and Bengal, now Lucknow: Another Al-Qaeda module busted within a year
The arrest of three people linked to terror group Al-Qaeda in Lucknow on Sunday is the busting of third major terror module within a year in the country. In September last year, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested nine Al-Qaeda terrorists in West Bengal and Kerala. The agency said that these terrorists were planning attacks in several places in the country, including National Capital Region (NCR).
The terror operatives were arrested from Ernakulam in Kerala and Murshidabad in West Bengal. The NIA said that their targets included Kochi naval base and shipyard.
The agency seized weapons and bomb-making material from the men. The six from Murshidabad and three from Ernakulam were planning lone wolf attacks, the NIA said.
The investigators further said that these men were radicalised by Al-Qaeda terrorists on social media and were motivated to undertake attacks at multiple locations in India.
In the Lucknow arrest too, the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) recovered incriminating material, including two semi-prepared IED-based pressure cooker bombs and explosive materials.
The arrested operatives - Minhaz Ahmed (30) and Maseeruddin (50) - were living in Lucknow and associated with Al Qaeda-linked Ansar Ghazwatul Hind. In fact, Ahmed's father has been running amotor workshop in Lucknow's Dubagga area.
These men were in touch with their handler Umar Halmandi, the head of the Uttar Pradesh module of Al-Qaeda, according to Uttar Pradesh Police. "They were planning to unleash terror activities before August 15 (Independence Day) in different cities of the state, including Lucknow," said Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar. The men were planning explosions, including using human bombs, Kumar added.
The Bihar Police on Sunday issued an alert in all districts and railway stations after the arrest of two Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in Lucknow.
PK Mishra, former additional director general of the Border Security Force (BSF) and security affairs expert told Hindustan Times' sister publication Live Hindustan that Al-Qaeda's sleeper cells are present in many parts of the country. "We will have to get their handlers to stop their funding and demolish the network," Mishra said.
The Uttar Pradesh ATS, meanwhile, is looking for two associates of Ahmed and Maseeruddin, who escaped just before the two were arrested on Sunday.