The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday arrested nine persons following raids in West Bengal and Kerala for allegedly planning a terror conspiracy and being part of an al-Qaeda module. After preliminary questioning, the NIA has learnt that Delhi, Bangalore and Bihar were on the suspected operatives’ targets. Officials told News18 that the plan was to carry out a blast or targeted killings at these locations but lockdown had delayed their plans.
NIA sources also told News18 that the module was being guided by a Pakistan-based online handler and was involved in “active planning of conducting terrorist strikes/targeted killings in the near future.”
NIA officials claim that the suspected terror operatives were collecting funds for procuring sophisticated arms and ammunition. “They were about to finalise the deal and receive the arms consignment from Delhi. They were aiming to execute terrorist strikes immediately upon receipt of these weapons,” an official told News18.
As per NIA’s investigation, the group is headed by Murshid Hasan, who was arrested from Kerala’s Ernakulam. Hasan, according to the NIA, was inspired by al-Qaeda’s ideology and involved in raising and collecting funds for the procurement of arms with the intention to commit terrorist activities. The central investigation agency claimed that he was living in Kerala as a migrant labourer but was using that as cover to recruit and radicalize individuals.
“He posts radical jihadi videos on social media, speaks about killing ‘infidels’ without any excuse,” an officer told News18.
NIA, during the raids at Hasan’s premises, recovered digital devices which allegedly show that he was in contact with a Pakistani handler named Hamza through encrypted platforms. “Hasan remained in touch with ‘Hamza’ through encrypted communication platforms. He was reportedly planning to visit ‘Thanda Ilqa’ i.e. Kashmir where ‘Hamza’s’ contact was to deliver arms and ammunition to him. However, due to the lockdown, this could not materialise and the place of delivery was shifted to Delhi,” a source aware of the investigation said.
Officials allege that Hasan, along with a few of his gang members, were planning to travel to Delhi to execute the terror conspiracy but NIA was able to thwart their attempts on time.
The second most important member of their group, according to NIA, is Mosaraf Hoseen, a close confidant of Murshid Hasan. NIA sources allege that Hoseen was involved in raising funds and was also in charge of logistical arrangements like scheduling meetings and figuring routes for the purchase of arms. “He was planning to purchase weapons from across the border in Bangladesh for Rs 1 lakh for the purpose of jihadist activities,” the officer alleged.
Other suspected members of the group are Mainul Mondal, Leu Yean Ansary, Najmus Sakib, Iyakub Biswas, Abu Sufiyan, Atitur Rehman and Al Mamun Kamal.
The NIA source alleged that Mondal had contributed Rs 10,000 for the purpose of buying arms and was involved in planning and procurement of arms and ammunition from across the border in Bangladesh.
Leu Yean Ansary procured country-made weapons which were recovered from him by NIA. A self-fabricated armour jacket has also been recovered from him, the source said. Najmus Sakib has been accused by NIA of being highly radicalized and further radicalizing youth through jihadi ideology. He, too, was allegedly communicating with other group members regarding the procurement of arms and ammunition. Iyakub Biswas was arrested from Kerala, and has been accused of helping with recruitment and radicalising others, the source added.
Abu Sufiyan and Atitur Rehman, both residents of Murshidabad, West Bengal were purportedly involved in furthering the jihadist activities of the group. The source alleged that Sufiyan was planning to establish a shed for explosives and during the search of his house. Al Mamun Kamal is another suspected West Bengal-based member of the operative. He allegedly provided a secure venue for a fundraising meeting in his house for the group members, the source said.