Sep 15, 2008
U.P. authorities stalled action against Delhi suspects
SIMI bomb-maker Subhan visited Azamgarh to discuss Delhi bombing plan
Three men identified by two top SIMI operatives
Authorities feared their arrest might provoke communal tension
NEW DELHI: Uttar Pradesh authorities stonewalled efforts to arrest three Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) operatives who are emerging as key suspects in Saturday’s serial bombings in New Delhi, highly placed police sources have told The Hindu.
Delhi Police sources said that the three Azamgarh-based men — whose identities are being withheld by The Hindu to avoid compromising the investigation — had been identified as core members of an Indian Mujahideen team planning fresh attacks by two top terror commanders held in Uttar Pradesh earlier this month.
Fearing that police action against the three men might fuel tension in communally charged Azamgarh, police sources said, Uttar Pradesh authorities refused to order their arrest or detention for questioning, saying that interrogation reports from Gujarat and Rajasthan did not constitute adequate grounds for such action.
According to a senior Delhi Police official, the three men were identified by Lucknow-based businessman Shahbaz Husain, who the Rajasthan Police says had overall charge of the terror cell which carried out the Jaipur serial bombings in May, and Azamgarh cleric Abul Bashar Qasmi, identified by the Gujarat Police as the controller of the murderous serial bombings that tore Ahmedabad apart in July.
Both Qasmi and Husain told their interrogators that the three Azamgarh men had met with Abdul Subhan Qureshi, a top Mumbai-based SIMI operative, who is thought to have taught dozens of Indian Mujahideen operatives their bomb-making skills and authored the organisation’s e-mail manifestos. Qureshi, they said, had visited Azamgarh at least twice in August, soon after the Ahmedabad bombings, to discuss future attacks. New Delhi was chosen as a target during these meetings.
Evidence on the central role of SIMI’s Uttar Pradesh networks in the Indian Mujahideen’s operations began to emerge in the course of the investigation into the December 2007 synchronised bombing of trial court buildings at Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi. Police learned 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.
Mujahid and Kazmi were held, but their arrests provoked widespread protests by local Muslims who claimed the two men were innocent. As a result of the protests, Uttar Pradesh authorities ordered police to ease back on operations targeting SIMI. Among those who thus escaped arrest was Qasmi, an Azamgarh-based seminary student-turned-SIMI-activist, who the Gujarat Police alleges was the central figure in the July 27 serial bombings in Ahmedabad.
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 finally held only 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. Police in Rajasthan, too, found that the networks responsible for executing the Jaipur serial bombing stretched east to Uttar Pradesh. Late last month, investigators arrested Shahbaz Husain, the businessman who, the Rajasthan Police say, was one of the Indian Mujahideen’s key organisers.
Husain, who owned two successful businesses in Lucknow, is alleged to have helped organise the bombings in Jaipur and Ahmedabad — and, with Qureshi, co-authored the e-mail claiming responsibility for the attacks. Like Qasmi, Husain had long been known to the Uttar Pradesh police — but this knowledge failed to provoke action.
Husain’s name figured in the interrogation of SIMI chief Safdar Nagori, who was arrested from a safehouse in Indore at the end of March. Nagori identified Husain, who he referred to by the nickname ‘Shaanu,’ as the ranking head of the group’s military operations. He told police that Qureshi had trained dozens of Indian Mujahideen operatives on Husain’s orders.
Uttar Pradesh police determined that Husain was indeed a SIMI member, who was recruited into the organisation while he was a student of the Indian Institute of Mass Communications in New Delhi. Before SIMI’s proscription in 2001, police found, he briefly edited one of its English-language magazines, Islamic Movement.
Interestingly, bomb-maker Qureshi worked at the Delhi offices of SIMI during this time, after resigning a position at the Mumbai-based computer firm Datamatics. However, Uttar Pradesh authorities again held back on making an arrest, arguing that the evidence available was inadequate to justify holding a prominent member of the community.
Rajasthan Police investigators, however, were able to obtain an arrest warrant after several suspects held in Gujarat — including top local SIMI organiser Sajid Mansoori — correctly identified photographs of Husain, who they described as their ranking commander. End
Has UP emerged as a terror hub due to state’s indifference?
Lucknow, August 26 With the arrests of alleged terrorists Mufti Abu Bashar, a resident of Azamgarh and Shahbaz Hussain, a native of Saint Kabir Nagar, Uttar Pradesh is once again in focus as a terror hub of the country. While Bashar was described as an “architect” of the Ahemadabad blast by the police, Shahbaz Hussain is allegedly one of the main conspirators of the Jaipur blast.
For the first time in the last decade, Uttar Pradesh has figured as the native place of terror accused, who allegedly masterminded the terror operations in two different states of the country. Involvement of the states’ youths in terror operations outside the state has baffled the state police. “Seems Uttar Pradesh has emerged as the producer of terrorists, who mastermind the terror operations in other states,” said a senior officer of the UP police, after the arrest of Bashar.
Police sources said the state has no dearth of sleeper cells of various terror groups. Since SIMI was founded in Aligarh in 1975, the state already has a large number of its followers. “The state police swung into action to trace the followers of the SIMI’s Safdar Nagori group only after the Gujarat Police claimed that the Indian Mujaheedin was as a breakaway group of SIMI,” said a senior officer of the state’s Anti-Terror Squad.
Sources claimed places like Jaunpur, Azamgarh, Sonauli, Allahabad and Varanasi have always been a safe haven for terrorists in state’s eastern region, besides the Hapud-Moradabad-Bareilly-Rampur stretch in western UP. “Many people of the western UP have their relatives in Pakistan. They are easily lured by the ISI,” said the source.
Most of the police officers blame the successive state governments for not showing strong will power to handle the terror activities in UP. “Note the statement that the UP’s Additional Director General of Police Brij Lal had made after the arrest of Shahbaz on Monday. His emphasis was not on the arrest but on the warrant of arrest that the Jaipur Police had carried at the time of arrival in Lucknow. It shows UP Police helplessness’s in taking credit for its own achievement,” said a source in the ATS. He also told about the difficulty that his organisation was facing before laying its hand on terror suspects in UP.
According to him, both Bashar and Shahbaz were on the radar of the state police for long because other states had informed about their activities to the UP police much earlier. “Though they were under constant vigil, we could not detain them for interrogation,” added the source.
Although Chief Minister Mayawati has formed the ATS as a specialized unit to counter the growth of terror activities in the state, her government has put a question mark on the investigations into the November 23 serial blasts case. Tariq and Khalid, accused of blasts at the courts premises in Faizabad, Varanasi and Lucknow, had leveled allegations against the state police for falsely implicating them in the case. Subsequently, Mayawati had set up a judicial commission to probe the allegations, thereby affecting the credibility of her own police force.