An employee of the Indian Defense Ministry's Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and a journalist with an English newspaper were among the 11 men arrested in the southern Indian state of Karnataka Wednesday by the Central Crime Branch of the Bangalore police for alleged links with global terror networks.
Of the 11 suspects, all in their twenties, six were arrested in Bangalore and five in Hubli, two major cities in Karnataka. The police said that all had links with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Harkat-ul-Jihadal-Islami (Huji) and were plotting to eliminate prominent politicians and Hindu leaders as well as right-wing journalists and columnists in Karnataka, Indian media reports said.
The police said that they recovered an imported 7.65 mm pistol, seven live rounds, computers, hard disks, mobile phones and religious tracts from those arrested in Bangalore, the Times of India reported.
The suspects arrested in Bangalore were identified as Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui, 26, Shoaib Ahmed Mirza alias Chhotu, 25, Abdullah alias Abdul Hakim Jamadar, 25, Ejaz Mohammed Mirza, 25, Mohammed Yusuf Nalbandh, 28, and Riyaz Ahmed Byahatti, 28.
Those arrested in Hubli were Obedulla Imran Bahadur alias Sameer alias Imran, 24, Mohammed Sadiq Lakshkar alias Raju, 28, Waahid Hussain alias Saahil, 26, Baba alias Mehaboob, 26, and Dr Jaffar Iqbal Sholapur, 27, media reports said.
Ejaz Mohammed Mirza works for Airborne Early Warning and Control System, a DRDO division, while Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui is a reporter at the Deccan Herald, a prominent Indian newspaper, the reports said.
The suspects were booked under 120 B, 153 B, 307, 379 of the Indian Penal Code and under Unlawful Assembly And Arms Act, Bangalore City police commissioner B.G. Jyotiprakash Mirji was quoted saying by DNA.
Mirji said the police had not been able to establish the suspects' connections with any previous terror attacks, but were investigating the possibility of their involvement in circulating hate messages targeting people from the northeastern states of India residing in the southern cities that had led to the recent exodus of people from cities including Bangalore.
Bangalore Mirror reported, citing unnamed sources, that the crackdown was effected by the arrest of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks handler Abu Jundal on June 21 and that the Uttar Pradesh (UP) police was involved in nabbing the suspects. Jundal has reportedly been divulging information on terror networks and their operations during interrogations by the Delhi Police.
Jundal, 30, hails from the Georai area of the Beed district in the central Indian state of Maharashtra and is an alleged member of the LeT, which orchestrated the series of coordinated shootings, bombings and siege in Mumbai on 26/11 replicating the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. He was tracked down with the help of Saudi Arabian intelligence agencies after more than three years of effort.
However, Director General and Inspector General of Police Lalrokhuma Pachau on Thursday dismissed claims of the involvement of the UP police in the operation.
The police allege that the group, which has been under surveillance for the past four months, was arrested just before they could execute their plans, the Hindu reported.
One among the suspects, Siddiqui, 26, was described by his colleagues as "brilliant" and a "strong Muslim sympathizer" who was often irregular at work and stayed late in the office. One of Siddique's brothers is a teacher while the other is an Islamic scholar in Saudi Arabia.
DNA reported, quoting an unnamed police official, that Shoaib Mirza alias Chhotu had undergone training in Pakistan under the LeT. He was allegedly planning an attack in the city during the upcoming Hindu festival of Ganesh Chaturthi.