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Arrested from Lucknow, suspected LeT operative adept in terror planning: ATS officials

Alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative Shaikh Abdul Naeem, 37, arrested from Lucknow on Tuesday, is being called ‘Headley-II’ after David Headley who is serving a prison sentence at a US jail for his involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

lucknow Updated: Nov 30, 2017 11:25 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
LeT operative,ATS officials,Shaikh Abdul Naeem
Sources said Shaikh Abdul Naeem also has expertise in preparing the ‘fidayeen’ (suicide bombers and attackers), and was allegedly building a network of sleeper modules and suicide bombers in the country.  (Representative image)

Alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative Shaikh Abdul Naeem, 37, arrested from Lucknow on Tuesday, is being called ‘Headley-II’ after David Headley who is serving a prison sentence at a US jail for his involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Naeem, nabbed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) with the help of UP Anti-Terror Squad (ATS), has reportedly earned his nickname due to his reconnaissance skills and ability to plan terror attacks. Sources said he also has expertise in preparing the ‘fidayeen’ (suicide bombers and attackers), and was allegedly building a network of sleeper modules and suicide bombers in the country.

“Naeem was termed the second David Coleman Headley, the American terrorist-spy of Pakistani origin, who plotted the 26/11 Mumbai attacks of 2008 along with the LeT,” said a senior ATS official. He said Naeem was also good at arranging arms and ammunitions for terror activities and was a key accused in the Aurangabad firearms haul case of May 2006 during which security agencies had seized around 30 kg RDX from the CPU of computer, 10 AK-47 assault rifles and over 3,000 bullets.

The official said Naeem reconnoitred tourist destinations in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh for carrying out terror attacks there. “The NIA, with the assistance of ATS, arrested Naeem alias Nomi, a resident of Aurangabad Maharashtra, in connection with LeT’s activities in India. Several incriminating documents, a mobile phone and bank account details were seized from him at the time of his arrest from the Charbagh bus stand in Lucknow,” he said.

A source said Naeem had also reconnoitred some tourist spots popular with foreign visitors as well as Army installations in Varanasi, Lucknow and Agra. He also gathered information and pictures of Army camps and power projects in Kashmir and visited Kasol in Himachal Pradesh.

He was allegedly preparing a network of sleeper modules and suicide bombers in India at the behest of his handler Amzad alias Rehan, an LeT commander based in Pakistan. “The suspect was closely associated with Abu Jundal, the key handler in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and had also met LeT chief Hafiz Saeed. He was receiving funds for setting up bases in different parts of India from terror operatives in UAE,” said an official.

He said that Naeem was wanted in various cases, including the Mumbai train attacks of 2006-2007. “He was arrested at that time but managed to give a slip to security agencies while being taken from the Dum Dum central jail (Kolkata) to Mumbai, to appear in court in August 2014. He had fled while the train was passing through the deep forests of Chhattisgarh. After fleeing, he got busy in organising a new sleeper cell module,” said the official.

NIA gets 10-day custody remand of Naeem

The National Investigation Agency registered a fresh case against Naeem at the NIA Delhi police station. The agency also got 10-day custody remand of the suspected LeT operative for further interrogation. Naeem was also produced at the Special NIA Court at Patiala House, Delhi. Sources said his interrogation could reveal startling facts about terror groups and their nefarious plans.

Another suspect held in Pratapgarh

A source said the NIA and the UP ATS had taken another terror suspect in custody in Pratapgarh district on basis of initial revelations made by Naeem. The NIA officials rigorously quizzed the suspect and his arrest was likely if he was found involved in helping Naeem carry out his evil plans. “More arrests are expected after details are extracted about the sleeper modules Naeem developed in the past three years,” he said.

First Published: Nov 30, 2017 11:25 IST