Ranchi, March 10: Suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) agent Manzar Imam (35), arrested from Ranchi on March 4, has divulged names of six aides and confirmed the existence of IM sleeper cells in Jharkhand, sounding a red alert on behind-the scenes activities that so far had managed to stay off the intelligence radar.
Sleeper cells are support systems used by terror groups in places considered low-key, safe havens. Radical hard-liners use these cells to hide active agents pursued by police and intelligence personnel or prepare logistics before a big-ticket attack. Imam, arrested by a joint team of police and intelligence agencies from Kanke on March 4, and grilled both by city police and National Investigation Agency (NIA) in Ranchi and the NIA in Ernakulam, confessed to six aides from Ranchi and Ramgarh and their role in a sleeper cell.
Federal agency NIA contacted intelligence counterparts based in Ranchi, which sent Union ministry of home affairs a report based on Imam’s confession. The report added the six suspects, all educated and without any criminal record, were “recruited and indoctrinated” by the IM to expand its terror base in Jharkhand.
Imam’s name figured in several acts of terror, including the February 21 Hyderabad blasts. His close associate Danish Riyaz from Bariatu was arrested in Vadodara on June 21, 2011, in connection with Ahmedabad blasts.
According to Imam, Salahuddin, Abrar and Haidar are from Ranchi, while Farhatullah, Muajamin and Hidayatullah are from Ramgarh. Intelligence sources refused to reveal details about them but hinted that Haidar was a frequent visitor to Aurangabad in Bihar as he was given the important assignment of creating similar network in the district’s Madanpur area.
“All of them are under our close watch. It is a big network that operates in a secret manner. It is a part of a larger investigation,” said an intelligence source.
Central intelligence agencies have also set alarm bells ringing by saying they have specific inputs on the flow of foreign funds in Jharkhand from West Asia to allegedly fund terror activity.
Jharkhand, strategically located with hidden forest tracks to bordering states, can prove a useful hideout for terror networks as it has for Maoist cadres.
Off and on, worrying reports of Jharkhand’s link with terror groups have surfaced since the US consulate attack in January 2002, when a suspect died in Khirpur, Hazaribagh.
Only a concerted effort by state police intelligence, central agencies and military intelligence can bust terror networks and shelters.
Jharkhand police also needs to sharpen its antennae. Insiders said state police two months ago refused to act on a specific tip-off about the consignment of sophisticated arms stocked in a densely populated area of Ranchi.