The top two leaders of the Ansar-ut Tawhid fi Bilal al-Hind, the Indian wing of the Islamic State (IS), were instructed by their foreign handlers to scout for potential targets for terrorist strikes in Delhi and Mumbai, sources in security agencies said on Wednesday.
As most of the IS suspects arrested as part of a nationwide crackdown ahead of the Republic Day celebrations did not have Indian passports, the instruction from their handlers was to lure as many fresh local recruits as possible with a view to carrying out terrorist attacks whenever possible, investigators have found.
Mudabbir Mushtaq Sheikh, 33, from Mumbra, the amir (chief) of IS India, is currently in the National Investigation Agency’s custody while Khalid Ahmed Ali alias Rizwan, 20, the second-in-command of the organisation arrested from UP, is in the custody of the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS).
Maharashtra ATS sleuths have recovered what they suspect is a bomb-making circuit from the residence of one of the arrested accused. “The arrests were made in Maharashtra and other places when the suspects were in preparatory mode to carry out a strike,” a senior IPS official said, requesting anonymity. Sources said the role given to Mudabbir and Khalid was to incite youngsters to carry out terrorist strikes.
Khalid played a crucial role in sending Ayaz Sultan from Malwani abroad, the sources added. Ayaz, a call centre employee, left on October 25 and a missing person’s complaint was registered on October 30 at a Malwani police station by his mother. The ATS registered a case against Sultan and others under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
“Ayaz Sultan’s radicalisation process began online in 2014. He also started identifying potential recruits from Malwani and tried to radicalise several youngsters,” a source said, adding he targeted at least eight people. Of these, sources said, two refused to agree to his views and opposed his ideology and interpretation of religion. Of the remaining people, Wajid Sheikh, 23, Mohsin Ibrahim Sayeed, 26, and Noor Mohammad Shaikh, 32, left their homes in mid-December. Wajid and Noor have returned, but the search for Mohsin is on. Three others were to leave, but aborted their mission after Ayaz’s name appeared in media reports.