The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Wednesday arrested eight men and detained a minor for alleged links with the Islamic State (IS) and planning to carry out terror attacks in Mumbai, Aurangabad and other places on Holi.
The arrests followed searches in Amrut Nagar, Kausa, Moti Baug and Almas Colony areas in Thane’s Mumbra township and in Aurangabad’s Kaisar Colony, Rahat Colony and Damdi Mahal areas late on Monday night and in the early hours of Tuesday.
Who are the accused?
Those accused have been identified as Mohsin Sirajuddin Khan (32), Mohammed Taqi (20), Mazhar Abdul Rashid Shaikh (21), Mohammed Mushahid-Ul-Islam (23) and Mohsin’s brother-in-law Mohammed Sarafaraz (25) from Aurangabad, and Salman Sirajuddin Khan (28), Fahad Mohammed Ishtiyaq Ansari (25) and Zaman Nawab Khuteupad were arrested from Mumbra.
A 17-year-old, detained from Mumbra, has been placed in a juvenile home.
According to official sources, the ATS had been monitoring the group’s conversation on online platforms for weeks after which the investigators brought in Mohsin, Taqi, Shaikh and Sarafaraz for questioning.
In course of the interrogation, Mushahid was also identified and picked up from Aurangabad. Further questioning revealed the roles of four members of the group.
Investigators claimed the men called themselves ‘Ummat-e Mohammadiya’ (followers of the Prophet) and were in touch with handlers abroad.
All of them were booked under the Indian Penal Code’s Section 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and the Bombay Police Act. A special court in Aurangabad ordered them to be placed on a 14-day police remand on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, an alert warned authorities that the IS was planning to launch a chemical attack in the Ganga during the ongoing Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj. The ATS will probe the men arrested Wednesday to see if they were linked to this plot, according to sources.
Foils of raid
The raids resulted in the seizure of several gadgets, along with explosive powders and bottles of chemicals including hydrogen peroxide, based on which the police concluded that the alleged terrorists were conspiring to launch operations on Holi.
The sleuths have also seized sharp knives, mobile phones, hard disks and some SIM cards from the group, an official told The Telegraph.
What ATS suspects
“The group was planning to make some poisonous chemical and mix it in food and water at an event that would result in mass casualty. We cannot rule out Holi, as it is an upcoming festival involving water,” an officer told the press.
Investigating officer ACP Sunil Yadav told the court, “On December 24, during the course of further investigation, it was found out that suspect Mohsin Khan had moved to Aurangabad with some aides from Mumbra. It was also
“Secret information was obtained that members of said group were inspired by the ideology of terror outfit ISIS. Technical analysis of the mobile phones of suspects was done. Based on obtained information and technical analysis, need of a house search was felt due to high probability of these suspects indulging in an assault,” he further informed.
The agency is also investigating underworld connections, as Mazhar Shaikh is the son of Rashid Marbari, a gangster with alleged links to the Chhota Shakeel gang.
Other recently pre-empted error attacks
Last month, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in association with the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Uttar Pradesh police raided 16 locations, detaining 10 suspects involved in a new IS-inspired module operating out of UP and Delhi. They were supposedly planning to carry out suicide attacks in and around the national capital ahead of Republic Day.
Earlier in 2018, Maharashtra ATS had managed to apprehend three other men planning lethal terror attacks across multiple major cities before Independence Day. The accused reportedly had links to hardline right-wing Hindu outfits, one of them being an alleged member of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti and a
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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