NIA nabs Bengaluru techie, 4 others; detains nine terror suspects

Operations after sleuths got hint of arms buy

NIA nabs Bengaluru techie, 4 others; detains nine terror suspects

A software engineer from Bengaluru is among 14 youths suspected to have been radicalised by a former Indian Mujahideen operative, who were picked up by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from four states on Friday.

Security agencies, meanwhile, warned against hastily linking them to the Islamic State (IS).  The NIA’s coordinated operation with the states’ police to nab the youths, came ahead of Republic Day celebrations next week with officials saying it was necessitated by intercepted online messages that indicated that they were “actively” trying to procure weapons and IED materials.

“These individuals were planning to establish a channel for procurement of explosives, weapons, identify locations to organise training camps, including training in firearms, motivate new recruits to target police officers, foreigners in India and carry out terrorist activities in various parts of India,” NIA said.

Of the 14, a Home Ministry spokesperson said, six are from Karnataka, four from Hyderabad, three from Mumbai and one from Lucknow.

Five of them have been placed under arrest – two from Hyderabad and one each from Bengaluru, Mangaluru and Mumbai – while the rest were being interrogated to ascertain their role in terror plans. The arrested included an engineering dropout Najmul Huda (Mangaluru), software professional Mohammed Afzal (Bengaluru) and Mudabbir Mushtaq Shaikh (Mumbai).

Security sources said eight others would be arrested soon while one could be freed, as it appears that he was not involved in any illegal activities.

Searches were conducted at 12 locations in six cities — Bengaluru, Tumakuru, Mangaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Lucknow. Anti-Terrorist Squad of Maharashtra also conducted searches at two other locations.

Most of the 14 youths were in touch with one person going with an online identity 'Yusuf', whom security agencies suspect is Shafi Armar of Bhatkal.

Shafi and his elder brother had quit the IM in protest against its leader Iqbal Bhatkal's activities and moved to Gulf. These youth appeared to be under pressure from their handler 'Yusuf' to do something. "There was some urgency on their part to do something. There was exhortation from their handler (Yusuf)," the spokesperson said.

There were unverified reports that the youth were part of terror outfit 'Janood-ul-Khalifa-e-Hind' (Army of Caliph of India) and Shaikh was the “leader” while Huda “handled finance”. Investigators said Shaikh received around Rs six lakh for buying weapons.

However, the source of funding was not immediately clear. Officials said ‘Yusuf’ was in touch with four youths arrested by Delhi Police in Hardwar earlier this week but the 14 youths have no links with the latter. Security agencies are yet to locate Shafi.

Though there were reports that the brothers had joined either al-Qaeda or the IS, security agencies are downplaying a possible IS link to the youth, saying it has to be established after investigation.

"It could be just online radicalisation. Don't give much traction to IS at this point of time. What we can say now is that they were radicalised by a former IM operative. Any link with IS has to be investigated,” a senior official said, adding these youths were under surveillance for the past 4-6 months.

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