|Ziaur Rehman alias Waqas, a suspected leader of the Indian Mujahideen,
after his arrest. (AFP)
Jaipur, March 23: Delhi police today announced the arrest of a top Indian Mujahideen operative linked to a rash of bombings, an aborted attack on an IPL match and a cross-country dash that took him to Bengal.
The police also claimed to have foiled plans for a “spectacular attack”, suggesting events related to the general election may have been in the crosshairs but cautioning against jumping to conclusions on the basis of speculation.
The police identified the suspect as Ziaur Rehman alias Waqas, a Pakistani whose arrest in Ajmer coincided with a swoop on Jodhpur and Jaipur that led to the capture of three of his alleged associates.
Two of the arrested suspects were studying in an engineering college in Jaipur while the third has a background in digital graphics.
Rehman, said to be an expert in making bombs, is thought to be close to Yasin Bhatkal, the jailed commander of the Indian Mujahideen.
“Rehman, a dreaded terrorist exported by the Pakistan-based ISI, is wanted in a series of bombings carried out all over India along with his absconding associates,” special commissioner (special cell) S.N. Shrivastava told reporters in Delhi.
Rehman was arrested outside Ajmer railway station yesterday morning when he alighted from a train from Bandra, Mumbai.
The three alleged associates have been identified as Mohammad Mahruf, 21, Mohammad Waqar Azhar alias Haneef, 21, both residents of Jaipur, and Shaquib Ansari alias Khalid, 25, of Jodhpur.
The three were arrested today dawn from their residences with the help of the anti-terrorism squad of Rajasthan police.
“We have found huge amount of explosive materials, detonators, electronic circuits/timers at the residences of these three people from Jaipur and Jodhpur. With this, a spectacular terrorist strike has been averted,” said Shrivastava.
Asked whether the terrorists had plans to target Narendra Modi, Shirvastava said: “The present level of investigation doesn’t point towards it.”
Asked if any politician or rally was being targeted, he said: “Any important event, including elections, can be targeted but we are at a very preliminary stage of investigation and I would not like to speculate as of now.”
Cases have been registered under the explosive substances act at Jaipur and Jodhpur in connection with the arms haul.
Rehman, 25, has disclosed that the purpose of his visit to Ajmer was to co-ordinate and oversee the preparations being carried out by the Rajasthan module for a terror strike, Shrivastava claimed.
The police had become aware of the Rajasthan module after interrogating Bhatkal. According to a police source, during his interrogation Bhatkal had said: “Ladke bade achche hain (the boys are good)”, referring to the Rajasthan cell.
Rehman was brought to Delhi and produced in a special court that remanded him in 10-day police custody.
Police sources in Mumbai claimed he was part of a plan to attack an IPL match at the Wankhede stadium in 2011. But the plan could not be executed as the extremists failed to find any loophole in the security system, the police sources claimed.
Rehman had bought a ticket and watched an IPL match between the Mumbai Indians and the Pune Warriors at Wankhede on April 20, 2011, to case the stadium at the instructions of Bhatkal, the sources said.
Two days later, Rehman and an associate scouted the areas outside the stadium. At that time, a match was on between the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings.
The two felt that the security was tight and Rehman briefed Bhatkal that planting a bomb inside the stadium was risky. Yasin had then dropped the plan, the sources claimed.
The group then zeroed in on Zaveri Bazaar, Opera house and Dadar and carried out blasts on July 13, 2011, killing 21 people, the sources said.
In Delhi, the police linked Rehman to a raft of blasts, including those near the Jama Masjid on September 19, 2010, and at Varanasi on December 7, 2010, Pune on August 1, 2012, and Hyderabad on February 21, 2013.
The police found little other than mobile phones on Rehman at the time of his arrest. But pen drives, explosives, timers and circuits were seized from Ansari, Maruf and Waqar, the police claimed.
“The largest seizure was made from Waqar. We seized mobile phones, pen drives, and other incriminating documents/books from a black bag. We also found 10 watches, two detonators, two small plastic bottles containing ball-bearings, two complete circuits, batteries, nails, some silver colour explosive material. Two bottles containing magnesium sulphate, castor seeds, 10 circuit plates, soldering rods and sodium chloride were found,” said an official.
According to the police, Rehman stayed in Mumbai for some days before boarding a train to Ajmer.
Rehman had reached Kathmandu from Pakistan in September 2010 and was received by Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu, the chief of the Indian Mujahideen after the arrest of Bhatkal.
Rehman crossed over to Darbhanga in Bihar where he met Bhatkal. When Bhatkal was arrested, Rehman was hiding in Mangalore. Rehman moved to Munnar in Kerala and took a rented accommodation there.
From the south, Rehman went to the east and kept moving between Odisha and Bengal. He also visited Maharashtra from where he left for Rajasthan, the police sources said.