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Mumbai arrests put focus back on Indian Mujahideen

March 15, 2010 14:45 IST

A year-and-half ago, security agencies picked up several key Indian Mujahideen operatives like Safdar Nagori, Mansoor Pherrbhoy and several others. These arrests crippled the Indian Mujahideen and it appeared that the network of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba sponsored outfit had been busted.


However, following the Pune blasts, one fact came to light and that was the IM was rearing to go and they still have a strong presence across the country. This year there have been four crucial arrests and each of these persons have critical information on the IM network.


Shehzad, Chotu (name changed), Abdul Lateef and Riyaz Ali, are the four who are in police custody for their alleged links with the Indian Mujahideen. While the Delhi police continue to interrogate Shehzad and Chotu, the other two persons are being probed by the Mumbai Anti Terrorist Squad.


Sources told that Shehzad and Chotu are key personalities in the IM and the information that they have been revealing has been of high value.


Regarding Lateef and Ali, the information that has been coming out is not concrete so far, but the interrogation of the duo is on.


These two – both are vegetable vendors-- have been accused of plotting strikes in Mumbai. Intelligence sources, however, point out that they are yet to verify all this information while the ATS says that interrogation is still on. It is too early to comment on their role in the alleged Karachi plot as is being reported in a section of the media.


Shehzad: This youth from Azamgarh was the first to be picked up this year. Shehzad's arrest sparked off protests in Azamgarh, which Indian security agencies describe as the nursery of terror. Shehzad was picked up for his role in the Delhi blast and subsequent Batla House encounter.


Sources in Delhi police say that not much information has been derived from him about the Pune blasts, in particular, but he has given a lot of information relating the IM and its operations in India.


During the interrogation, Shehzad said they were planning to carry out strikes in Delhi and were regrouping for the same. He told his interrogators that the arrests which were conducted last year had broken the IM a great deal and they were finding hard to go about their operations.


An interrogator says that the most important revelation by Shehzad was pertaining to the control of the IM. At first, it was meant to be controlled and operated out of India. However, following the arrests, two main operatives, Abdul Subhan and Riyaz Shahbandri Bhatkal, had to slip into Pakistan. Shehzad who escaped from Delhi following the Batla encounter went to Nepal and then to Pakistan.


Over there, he managed to meet Bhatkal and the IM chief Amir Raza Khan. Over there he was given a specific brief to regroup the outfit and also get in touch with Chotu.


The IM, he says, was instructed by the Lashkar to start operations again. But, investigators say that the interesting part was that the IM bosses wanted the outfit controlled entirely from Pakistan instead of India. The reason was that the top planners were in hiding at Pakistan and they thought that their constant guidance and monitoring was required.


Shehzad stated their modules were strongest in Pune and the Uttar Pradesh, but added that they were working on some key changes to shift their base out of these areas since the heat on their modules in these areas was on the rise.


Chotu: There is a debate on the veracity of his age. When the Delhi police picked him up, they said he is 21, but a petition before the juvenile court filed by the Jamia Teachers Association suggests that he is below 18 and hence should be tried as a juvenile.


Chotu, like Shehzad, hails from Azamgarh. He is the youngest recruiter for the IM till date. He had joined the Students Islamic Movement of India before gradually moving into the Safdar Nagori faction. Later when the IM was formed, he joined this outfit.


During his interrogation, Chotu revealed that his role was largely restricted to recruitments. He says that the IM had made an impact in the country due to its technological advancements and the newer recruits they were looking for had to be tech savvy.


He further adds that the IM had realised that the best way to beat Indian security agencies was through the use of technology and hence they were looking for cadres who specialised in technology. He further goes on to say that the pressure to recruit quality cadres was high since they had lost a lot of their operatives, who were arrested last year.


He further stated during his interrogation that the IM was planning a spectacular attack and they were even exploring the possibility of aerial type attacks. Some of the cadres had obtained training in flying schools, he also added.


The IB says that the most important disclosure that was made by Chotu is that the IM was planning on shifting its entire base to South India. They were planning on winding up most of their modules in Uttar Pradesh and Pune and were exploring the possibility of making both Karnataka and Kerala as their main bases. They felt that the heat factor in these two states was much less when compared to Pune and UP and they would be able to recruit cadres easily.


Abdul Lateef and Riyaz Ali: These two men are the latest to be in the police net. When these two vegetable vendors were picked up, the police said that they had with them maps and sketches aimed at causing mayhem in Mumbai.


It was also alleged that they were agents of the ISI and were part of the Karachi plot which is being jointly planned by the ISI and the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. It is also alleged that they had plans to attack ONGC installations in and around Mumbai.


ATS chief K P Raghuvanshi said Latif is a resident of Bandra while Ali is from Dahisar. He said that the men are being interrogated and added that preliminary investigations suggests that they planned to target a mall at Borivili (a northern suburb), ONGC installations and Mangaldas market.

Vicky Nanjappa