Three individuals, apprehended on Monday as part of an ISI-sponsored network masquerading as an ISIS module, have backgrounds in engineering, with one currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), as per the police.
Law enforcement revealed that one of the accused had crafted Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and subsequently tested them in various locations in Delhi, Rajasthan, and Haldwani in Uttarakhand.
The arrested individuals are identified as Mohammad Shahnawaz Alam, also known as Abdullah, Mohammad Rizwan Ashraf, and Mohammad Arshad Warsi, aged 31, 28, and 29 respectively.
Shahnawaz, listed as one of NIA’s most wanted terrorists, conducted reconnaissance of potential areas, including crowded places, mausoleums, routes of VIP political leaders in Mumbai, Surat, Vadodara, Gandhinagar, and Ahmedabad, intending to plant IEDs and execute targeted killings.
Originally from Hazaribagh in Jharkhand, Shahnawaz pursued engineering coaching in Kota, Rajasthan, and completed his BTech in mining from NIT Visveswaraya, Nagpur in 2016. Moving to Delhi in 2016 for competitive exams, he adopted extremist ideologies during his college days, influenced by ISIS.
Following this, Shahnawaz started engaging with various social media accounts and news channels propagating ISIS ideology. He established a connection with Rizwan Ali in 2016, both sharing an inclination towards ISIS ideology.
Expressing the desire for ‘Hijrat,’ Shahnawaz and Ali engaged in criminal activities to collect funds. Shahnawaz had a history of arrests in Hazaribagh for dacoity and theft in 2019. Later, he communicated with a foreign-based ISIS handler, while Ali also established contact with the same handler.
The duo explored various locations for potential hideouts in Western Ghats and conducted reconnaissance in major cities for planting IEDs. Shahnawaz even analyzed the map of west Rajasthan to identify suitable IED testing points.
In March 2021, Shahnawaz married Basanti Patel alias Khadeeja Maryam in Aligarh, UP. Post-marriage, they decided to manufacture IEDs in Delhi until they could establish contacts for their planned migration to Afghanistan.
In 2022, Shahnawaz and Ali met with Imran and Yunus Saaki in Pune. During a police patrolling incident on July 18, Shahnawaz, Imran, and Yunus were apprehended by Pune police while attempting to steal a bike. Shahnawaz managed to escape.
From December 2022, on the instructions of their foreign-based handler, Shahnawaz and Ali, along with their associates, began accumulating materials in Delhi to prepare IEDs for a planned blast in the national capital.
The second accused, Warsi, originally from Jharkhand, studied at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and completed his BTech in mechanical engineering in 2016. Later, he pursued an MBA in marketing and operations at JMI. Currently, Warsi was pursuing a Ph.D. in Islamic Principles at JMI. He also worked as a physics teacher and provided home tuition in science and mathematics.
Warsi became associated with Shahnawaz during ‘Darsh’ programs in Jamia Nagar and participated in planning terrorist activities in Delhi and adjoining areas.
The third accused, Ashraf, born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, completed his BTech in information and technology in 2017 from a Ghaziabad college. An ISIS member, Ashraf communicated with the same foreign-based handler as Shahnawaz and Warsi. He got connected with them through a common contact and was involved in the conspiracy to carry out terrorist activities in Delhi.
(With PTI inputs)