Indian police said Monday they had arrested the alleged mastermind of a terrorist attack that killed dozens of people in the western state of Gujarat a decade ago.
The suspect, Abdul Subhan Qureshi, co-founded the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Indian Mujahideen (IM), and is believed to have masterminded a series of bombings that ripped through state capital Ahmedabad, police said.
Twenty-one bombs went off within a span of 70 minutes across the city, the cultural hub of Gujarat, Indian Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s stronghold, killing 56 people and injuring more than 200 on July 26, 2008, according to official figures.
Before the attack, Qureshi allegedly conducted four training camps in the states of Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka besides Gujarat, deputy commissioner of police P.S. Kushwah said.
Qureshi, 46, a native of northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state, is a software technician wanted in connection with other terror attacks in the country, including the bombings in the Mumbai subway in 2006 that killed more than 200 people, police said, adding that he carried a bounty of 400,000 rupees ($6,260) on his head.
He was arrested after a brief exchange of gunfire on the outskirts of Delhi, Kushwah said.
“Qureshi became a member of the SIMI at a young age. He initially started as a ground soldier, but quickly rose through the ranks and became the president of an offshoot outfit in south India. They then founded the IM,” he told BenarNews.
“He orchestrated the Ahmedabad blasts to retaliate the arrest of a SIMI member, Safdar Nagori,” Kushwah said. “He was the chief organizer, instructor and fund raiser.”
Qureshi had been in hiding in different states including Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, over the last 10 years, Kushwah said, adding that he also spent time in Nepal and Saudi Arabia working as an English lecturer.
Qureshi’s arrest came at a time when elaborate security measures are under way in the run-up to India’s 69th Republic Day celebrations on Friday. Security forces said there was no cause for concern.
India will host the leaders of all 10 Association for Southeast Asian Nations countries in Delhi on Friday. This is the first time the annual event will have 10 chief guests.
“All national security agencies, including the IB (Intelligence Bureau), RAW (Research and Analysis Wing), Army, Navy and Air Force will be guarding the celebrations,” Ashok Prasad, a spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs, told BenarNews. “While a general threat from terror outfits always remains, any specific threat would be known and dealt by the agencies themselves.”