Azamgarh, terror nursery in eastern UP
Press Trust of India
Saturday, September 20, 2008, (Azamgarh)
Azamgarh, the small town in eastern Uttar Pradesh, which is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons and has earned notoriety as a nursery of terror, is said to be home to a dozen activists of the banned SIMI.
Once known for Hindu-Muslim synergy and high intellect, Azamgarh has come to be known as terror’s breeding ground, because it has provided a very fertile land for the SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) and other such outfits to flourish.
Top intelligence and police officials now say that the arrest of Abu Bashar, a top SIMI activist, from the Saraimir area in Azamgarh, was not merely a coincidence but may be the first of many such arrests.
“There are many SIMI operatives in eastern UP but about two dozen of them are quite active. They are very active at certain times but mostly they are dormant. About a dozen of them belong to Azamgarh,” the officials said.
“We cannot pick them up without direct evidence of their involvement in the anti national activities,” they added.
They feel it is not surprising that the two terrorists, Atif and Sajid, who were killed and Mohammad Saif, who was apprehended in the Delhi encounter on Friday, belonged to Azamgarh district, said a top police official of Uttar Pradesh, who did not want to be identified.
There are a number of sleeper cells of SIMI, which can be activated at any time and they are the real problem, they said. end
Dawood to Atif, ill-famed sons of Azamgarh
22 Sep, 2008, 0259 hrs IST, ET Bureau
NEW DELHI: Even before they could recover from the shock delivered by the arrest of a cleric from one of the villages for his alleged role in the Ahmedabad and Jaipur blasts, the people of Azamgarh received another rude reminder about their district’s fast-growing reputation as an active breeding ground for jihadi terrorism by the stunning revelation that the September 13 serial blasts in the Capital too had an Azamgarh connection.
Interrogation of the Indian Mujahideen member arrested in the wake of the bloody encounter that took place at Jamia Nagar in south Delhi on Friday took the Delhi Police special branch to Azamgarh.
It led them to conclude that a module comprising 13 terrorists, all of them hailing from the eastern UP district, was responsible for carrying out the September 13 serial blasts in the Capital, which left over 25 people dead and some 100 injured.
The disclosure has reinforced the perception that Azamgarh had emerged as one of major recruitment centres for the jihadi outfits.
Atif, the alleged mastermind of the September 13 serial blasts, and Sajid, who were killed on the spot in the Jamia Nagar shootout, and Mufti Abu Basher, join a fast-expanding list of notorious sons of the soil from Azamgarh, a list that includes several high-profile names such as Dawood Ibrahim, Haji Mastan, Chhota Shakeel and Abu Salem.
At one point of time, the best sharpshooters in the Mumbai underworld too hailed from this district, and Shahid Badra, the first president of the banned Simi, too had roots in Azamgarh.
Intelligence agencies at the central and state levels now have Azamgarh firmly on their radar, even as security experts and sociologists try to unravel the mystery behind the district’s brush with infamy.
Police officials who have served in the district in the past contend that Azamgarh’s tryst with radicalism began in the late sixties of the previous century, when a large number of people made a beeline to west Asia in search of jobs.
“As their numbers swelled, the district soon began to thrive on money-order economy. Pockets of opulence started sprouting, particularly in and around Sarai Meer, and they rubbed shoulders with boroughs of abject poverty,’’ a SSP-level police officer from UP told ET.
The increase in economic prosperity of a section of the populace also led to the creation of strong hawala network. Azamgarh at one point time had become a major centre for illegal money transactions.
The increase in financial clout of the people of this areas was, however, not accompanied by any discernible improvement in the educational status. “There was good money, but no good education. Madrasas, which had mushroomed in the region in the meanwhile, occupied this space.
Jihadi outfits out on a recruitment drive found it easy to work on children receiving education in these institutions by indoctrinating them with radical ideology,’’ the officer said.
The youth, according to another officer who’s done a stint in Azamgarh, were also turned on by the `success stories’ of Dawood Ibrahim, Abu Salem and Chhota Shakeel. “These elements became the role-models, reference-points for the youth brigade.
Now everyone wanted to take the same route to acquire fame and wealth, and also glamour, in the shortest possible time. Of course, the absence of any industry and other employment opportunities in the region hastened the process,’’ said the officer.
Officers working in the state intelligence claim that organisations such as Simi and Huji had been active in the area for quite some, scouting around for young impressionable minds.
“We had Abu Basher under surveillance for the last six months. We had inputs that, being a Maulvi, he was actively involved in the process of screening candidates for terror activities,’’ an officer pointed out.