New insights into Indian Mujahideen network

2 10 2008

fPraveen Swami
Source: The Hindu
Also look at the List of faces of terror from NDTV


SIMI leaders provided the foundations for Ahmedabad operation

Most contentious part of network was a group of U.P. men centred around Atif Amin


NEW DELHI: India’s intelligence and police services now believe that the Indian Mujahideen is not a terror group, but a loose network of Islamist groups tied together by a common cause and ideological affiliation.

Based on a careful study of the mechanics of the July 26 serial bombings of Ahmedabad, investigators believe that the Indian Mujahideen is made up of three distinct elements: Students Islamic Movement of India volunteers, a group of Uttar Pradesh men with links to the Harkat ul-Jihad-e-Islami and the jihadist-linked crime cartel of jailed mafioso Aftab Ansari.

SIMI foundations

Students Islamic Movement of India leaders — many of whom knew Ghauri and Husaini — provided the foundations for the Ahmedabad operation.

Key SIMI organiser Qayamuddin Kapadia, who has evaded arrest, led a team of Gujarat-based volunteers who provided the local knowledge critical for the success of the operation.

Many members of this ring, whose key members included Usman Agarbattiwala and Sajid Mansuri, were drawn to the jihad by personal experiences of the Gujarat communal pogrom of 2002. For example, Imran Ibrahim Sheikh was forced to drop out of school when his mother — the family’s sole earning member — was injured in the violence.

SIMI had begun preparing itself for participation in the Indian Mujahideen offensive in December 2007, when an estimated 50 cadre participated in a jihad training camp held near Aluva, Kerala. In January 2008, another camp was held on the Pavagadh hills near Halol.

Several follow-up meetings were held, involving Kapadia, Islamist ideologue Mufti Abdul Bashar Qasmi, and Mumbai-based bomb-maker Mohammad Subhan Qureshi — the man who helped to knit the diverse elements of the Indian Mujahideen network together.

Assault team

But the most contentious part of the social network was a group of Uttar Pradesh men centred around Atif Amin — a Jamia Millia Islamia University student, who, the Delhi police say, commanded the most critical cell of the Indian Mujahideen.

Much of the police account emerged from the questioning of Mohammad Shakeel, who was pursuing a Master’s degree in economics, along with Jamia undergraduate Zia-ur-Rahman and New Delhi-based Sikkim Manipal University distance-learning student Saqib Nisar.

While the families and supporters of the three men insist they are innocent, the police claim they were key members of the Indian Mujahideen network.

According to the police, independent witnesses have confirmed that on August 11 the three men were aboard the Ashram Express from Delhi to Ahmedabad, where they and other members of Atif Amin’s team carried out a reconnaissance in preparation for the serial bombings.

Delhi police investigators say Amin at first told his group that the bombings were to be executed on July 19. However, three days before that day, he announced that the plan had been deferred, because the disassembled improvised explosive devices needed for the attacks were yet to arrive.

In fact, the police in Gujarat and Maharashtra now believe, the delay was most likely the outcome of problems faced by the Indian Mujahideen’s organised-crime affiliates in Mumbai.

Car bombs

Aftab Ansari’s key lieutenant Riaz Bhatkal, who is thought to have routed much of the finance for the Indian Mujahideen from Islamists in the Indian diaspora in West Asia, promised to provide three cars to be fitted with bombs. But Bhatkal-lined gangster Afzal Usmani was able to arrange for the theft of the three vehicles used as car bombs in Ahmedabad only on July 15. Usmani and his associates then drove the cars to Ahmedabad, where they were delivered to Amin early on July 17.

Later, Amin’s group assembled the bombs — manufactured at a still-unknown Indian Mujahideen factory that is believed to have been run near Mangalore in Karnataka — at a safe house in Ahmedabad’s Dani Limda area.

By this time, however, Shakeel had returned to Delhi, where he was scheduled to sit for an examination for his Master’s degree. He was, however, ordered to prepare a flat in New Delhi’s Jasola Vihar area, used by the Indian Mujahideen as a safe house, for the arrival of the 13-member assault team led by Amin which returned to the Capital on July 27.

With much of the Indian Mujahideen’s top leadership still at large, it is still unclear just who thought up its name — but investigators say it is likely that its inspiration lay in earlier efforts to build up an indigenous, pan-India jihadist network.

In the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the Mujahideen Islam e-Hind — or the Indian Mujahideen of Islam — led by Mohammad Tufail Husaini bombed a series of trains. Andhra Pradesh-based Mohammad Azam Ghauri, one of the co-founders of the Lashkar’s pan-India operations, later set up the Indian Muslim Mohammadi Mujahideen, which carried out several bombings in 1999.

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