|Abdul Karim Tunda (centre) with plainclothes police officers in New Delhi on Saturday. (AFP)
New Delhi, Aug. 18: Arrested Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist Abdul Karim Tunda had turned from master bomb-maker to a fulltime “guest speaker” at madarsas across Pakistan, indoctrinating young jihadi recruits with fiery speeches, security agencies claimed today.
“He himself owned two madarsas under the banner Mahamood Tali Islami Darul Fannon, one in Karachi and the other in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” a source said.
Tunda, 70, captured on the Nepal border on Friday after eluding Indian police for two decades, is said to be “singing”. He is accused of some of the earliest jihadi bombings in India between 1993 and 1998 before he allegedly fled to Bangladesh and then settled down in Pakistan in 2000.
Over the past eight years or so, as more bomb-makers emerged within the Lashkar, Tunda began functioning mainly as an ideologue, mentor and fundraiser for the group’s pan-India terror attacks, a senior Delhi police officer said.
“He is a motivational speaker and used this ability to advance a radical jihadi ideology among new recruits. He was in great demand at Pakistan’s various madarsas because of his oratory,” said the officer, who is part of the interrogation team.
“He is soft-spoken but highly motivated. He remained defiant initially during the interrogation but later started singing. Despite his age, he is physically and mentally very active.”
The police said the Ghaziabad native was a twice-married 40-year-old, running a cloth business and a dyeing unit in Mumbai, when Pakistani spy agency ISI recruited him in the early ’80s.
His first two wives are Indians named Zarina and Mumtaz. He married his third wife, a Bangladeshi, in 2006 when he was 63 and she 18, an officer said. “We have learnt that he has two sons and four daughters but he is yet to reveal anything about his family.”
Tunda lived in a two-storey house opposite a compound of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa —Lashkar’s current avatar — at Muridkee in Punjab’s Sheikhpura district, a PTI report said. He also ran a perfume business.
In the 1990s, officers said, Tunda specialised in low-intensity blasts. He allegedly trained Indian terror recruits in making bombs with locally available material such as urea, nitric acid, potassium chloride, nitrobenzene and sugar, and planting them undetected at crowded places. He allegedly trained some Kashmiri militants too in 1996.
A senior officer dismissed reports that Lashkar had sidelined Tunda as a “spent force” over the past decade and that he had fallen on hard times.
“He was a fulltime jihadi preacher. Lashkar utilised his expertise and wide network in India and Bangladesh,” he said.
Tunda had built his Bangladesh network during two fairly long stints in that country in the mid- and late ’90s. He had allegedly been pushing explosives and terrorists into India through the Bangladesh border since 1995.
Officers claimed Tunda had told them that Babbar Khalsa International members Wadhawa Singh and Ratandeep Singh had asked him to help them logistically through his connections in India and Bangladesh.
“Babbar Khalsa members used Tunda’s network to supply arms and ammunition to operatives in India after a police crackdown on the organisation following the 2005 Satyam cinema blast in Delhi,” an officer said.
“He told us he was in touch with a few madarsas in India but we need to verify it.”
Officers said Tunda was directly in contact with Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed and key operative Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, both accused of plotting the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
A PTI report said Tunda had admitted to differences with Lakhvi, who he said called the shots within the group, and cited instances of arguments with him.
Asked about reports that Tunda was not arrested at the Nepal border but was deported by Saudi Arabia, the police were tight-lipped.
“We can’t disclose anything now,” joint commissioner M.M. Oberoi said.
Security agencies said Tunda was a “minefield of information” and would help them understand Lashkar’s future plans as well as how he himself became one of the earliest jihadi recruits in India, laying down the template for future groups and modules.
“He is very valuable for us,” an officer said. “He will help us comprehend the whole story from beginning to end.”