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NIA arrests 9 al-Qaeda terrorists from West Bengal and Kerala — Spokesperson

By PTI Updated: Sep 19, 2020 9:54 pm

New Delhi/Kolkata, Sep. 19 (PTI): Foiling an attempt by internationally banned terror group al-Qaeda to set up a base in India, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) swooped on its recruits in West Bengal and Kerala and arrested nine of them, an official spokesperson said on Saturday.

Acting on a tip-off provided by central intelligence agencies, the NIA, with the help of the state police forces, carried out raids in the intervening night of September 18 and 19 at Ernakulam in Kerala and Murshidabad in West Bengal, and arrested the nine men — Murshid Hasan, Iyakub Biswas, Mosaraf Hossen from Ernakulam and Najmus Sakib, Abu Sufiyan, Mainul Mondal, Leu Yean Ahmed, Al Mamun Kamal and Atitur Rehman from Murshidabad.

Hasan was leading the gang and those arrested from Kerala are originally residents of West Bengal, the NIA spokesperson said.

According to the officials investigating the case, the arrested men are highly radicalised and were getting instructions from Pakistan-based al-Qaeda members via cyberspace.

The module was planning to target vital installations as well as targeted killings in India and was in the advanced stage of procuring arms, including automatic rifles and pistols, ammunition and explosives to carry out attacks.

Some of its members were trying to develop expertise in Improvised Explosive Device (IED)-making too and were planning to convert crackers into an IED. The NIA recovered switches and batteries from Abu Sufiyan’s house during the raids.

Besides, the module was trying to establish a well organised al-Qaeda network in different parts of the country, including the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir, on the instructions of their Pakistan-based handlers, the official said.

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar was quick enough to take a dig at the Mamata Banerjee government in the state, saying West Bengal has become “home to illegal bomb-making” and the state administration cannot escape its accountability for the “alarming decline” in law and order.

“The state has become home to illegal bomb making that has the potential to unsettle democracy. Police @MamataOfficial busy in carrying out political errands and taking on the opposition. Those at helm @WBPolice cannot escape their accountability for this alarming decline in law and order,” Dhankhar tweeted.

The governor alleged that the state director general of police is distanced far from reality and his “ostrich stance” is “very disturbing”.

“How far distanced is DGP @WBPolice from reality is cause of worry. His ‘Ostrich Stance’ is very disturbing, he tweeted.

The governor, who has had regular run-ins with the Mamata Banerjee dispensation on several issues, had on earlier occasions accused the police and administration in the state of playing a partisan role and causing harassment to leaders and workers of opposition parties.

A closely-monitored operation of the NIA and central intelligence agencies began on September 11 when the premier investigating agency registered a case to probe the al-Qaeda module.

The group was also planning to go to Kashmir for weapons delivery as it intended to launch terror attacks on vital installations in the country with an aim to kill innocent people, the official said.

A preliminary probe revealed that the arrested men were radicalised by Pakistan-based al-Qaeda terrorists on social media platforms and were motivated to launch attacks at multiple locations, including in the National Capital Region (NCR).

The module was actively involved in fund-raising and some of its members were planning to travel to New Delhi to procure arms and ammunition, the official said, adding that the arrests have prevented possible terrorist attacks in various parts of the country.

Incriminating materials, including digital devices, documents, Jihadi literature, sharp weapons, country-made firearms, a locally-fabricated body armour, articles and literature for making home-made explosive devices, have been seized from the possession of the arrested terrorists, the official said.

They will be produced before courts concerned in Kerala and West Bengal for custody and further investigation, the NIA spokesperson said adding the module was in the advanced stage of procuring arms (including automatic rifles and pistols), ammunition and explosives to carry out attacks.

By PTI Updated: Sep 19, 2020 9:54:32 pm