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Killed Indian Mujahideen men provided terror backbone

Praveen Swami

Mohammad Bashir helped teach Gujarat terrorists bomb-making techniques

The three played an important role in organising the serial bombings in New Delhi

They had met Qureshi at least twice in August to discuss future attacks

NEW DELHI: Investigators believe that the three terrorists shot in New Delhi’s Jamia Nagar on Friday were key actors in an Uttar Pradesh-based network which constituted the logistical backbone of the Indian Mujahideen’s nationwide operations.

Police have identified the Indian Mujahideen operatives killed in the shootout as Azamgarh residents Mohammad Bashir and Mohammad Fakruddin. A third man who was injured has been identified as Saif Ahmad, also a resident of Azamgarh.

Police believe the three men, who were located after an Intelligence Bureau-led operation targeting Indian Mujahideen communications, played an important role in organising last weekend’s serial bombings in New Delhi.

Last week, The Hindu had broken news that the three Azamgarh men — whose names were withheld by this newspaper to avoid compromising the investigation — were being sought in connection with the New Delhi bombings.

Investigators had been searching for Bashir ever since the arrest of Sarai Mir-based cleric Abul Bashar Qasmi who, the Gujarat police alleges, had operational command of the terror cell which carried out July’s bombings in Ahmedabad.

According to Gujarat police investigators, Bashir, under the supervision of top Indian Mujahideen commander Mohammad Subhan Qureshi, taught local Indian Mujahideen cadre how to fabricate the improvised explosive devices used in Ahmedabad. Much of the training, police sources say, appears to have been carried out with the help of detailed circuit diagrams which were found in one of the apartments used by the terror cell.

Bashir, the Gujarat police say, also received the stolen vehicles which were used as car-bombs in Ahmedabad — vehicles that are thought to have been acquired by Qureshi who, despite the coordinated efforts of police in five States, is yet to be located.

Late on the afternoon on June 26, Bashir is believed to left Ahmedabad on a New Delhi-bound train. Qureshi — a highly-trained computer specialist who is suspected to have authored e-mail manifestos issued by the Indian Mujahideen after its attacks in Jaipur, Gujarat and New Delhi — is thought to have left Ahmedabad some two hours later.

Based on the phone records of the alleged Indian Mujahideen cadre held in Gujarat, the Intelligence Bureau concluded that Bashir was likely hidden out in safehouses provided by Students Islamic Movement of India sympathisers in the Jamia Nagar and Okhla areas of south-east Delhi. Efforts to locate the safehouses, Delhi Police sources said, were initiated last weekend.

However, the safehouses could only be located when Qasmi was brought to New Delhi and driven around the Jamia Nagar area on Thursday night.

Politics stalled arrests

Qasmi had told Gujarat police investigators that the three Azamgarh men had met with Qureshi at least twice in August to discuss future attacks. New Delhi was chosen as a target during these meetings.

But evidence on the critical role of Uttar Pradesh-based networks in the Indian Mujahideen’s operations had in fact been available ever since early this year, when the names of several of its operatives emerged in the course of investigations into the December 2007, synchronised bombing of trial court buildings at Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi.

Police found that Jaunpur based Mohammad Khalid Mujahid and Tariq Kazmi, using explosives provided by Jammu and Kashmir Harkat ul-Jihad-e-Islami commander Bashir Mir, had coordinated the trial court bombings. However, protests broke out after the arrests of the two men, leading the Uttar Pradesh government to order the State police to go slow on operations directed at SIMI.

Among those who thus escaped arrest was Qasmi. Indeed, Qasmi’s SIMI links been known to the Uttar Pradesh police since 2006, when he figured in the interrogation of Mohtasin Billa, an engineering student alleged to have facilitated that year’s serial bombings in Hyderabad. However, Qasmi was only finally held after the Gujarat police obtained a warrant for his arrest early this month. Police officials believe earlier action could have disrupted the networks which carried out the Ahmedabad attacks.

Friday’s shootings, interestingly, again sparked off violence in Azamgarh, where local Samajwadi Party activists claimed the men shot in New Delhi were innocent. Ahmad’s father, Sadab Ahmad, is vice-president of the local unit of the Samajwadi Party. Qasmi’s arrest — which took place after the Gujarat police obtained a judicial warrant, forcing the hand of their Uttar Pradesh counterparts — had had provoked protests in and around Sarai Mir, also spearheaded by local politicians of the Samajwadi Party.

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