India on Alert after Arrest of Four IS Suspects

Akash Vashishtha
2016.01.20
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160120-IN-terror-arrests-620 Spectators watch as a medium-range rocket is displayed during India’s Republic Day parade in New Delhi last year. Security forces arrested four suspected Islamic State operatives after intelligence reports showed possible attacks prior to this year’s event, Jan. 26, 2015.
AFP

Security forces in north India have been put on high alert following the arrests of four suspected Islamic State (IS) operatives from Uttarakhand state late Tuesday.

The four suspects – Akhlaq-ur-Rehman, Mohammad Osama, Azim Shah and Mehroz – were planning to carry out strikes in the ongoing Ardh Kumbh religious conglomeration in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar town and some key locations in Delhi ahead of the country’s Republic Day on Jan. 26, police said Wednesday.

The suspects were arrested from a hideout in the Manglaur area of Haridwar district in a joint operation by the Delhi Police’s Special Cell and the country’s Intelligence Bureau, police said.

The four accused “were in touch with a former Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative, who is now a key member of Ansar-ut-Tawhid fi-Bilad al-Hind (AuT),” an India-based jihadist outfit formed in 2013, an investigating officer told BenarNews on condition of anonymity.

The official added that AuT was “operating in conjunction with the IS.”

Al-Qaeda arrests

The arrests of the alleged IS members came a day after a Delhi Police team picked up a suspected operative of the al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) from the Mewat region of northern India’s Haryana state.

Abdul Sami, a native of Jharkhand state’s Jamshedpur city, was the fifth suspected AQIS member arrested by Indian police in the past two months.

A court on Wednesday remanded Sami, who was allegedly trained in Pakistan, to police custody until Feb. 1.

Police last month arrested Mohammed Asif from Delhi, Zafar Masood from Sambhal district of Uttar Pradesh and Abdul Rehman from Jagatpur in eastern India’s Odisha state, followed by the arrest of Bengaluru-based cleric Maulana Anzar Shah on Jan. 6.

The arrests marked the Indian police’s first successful raid on the AQIS since its formation in 2014.

Republic Day threat

The raids followed intelligence reports that the two militant outfits were planning to launch strikes in India ahead of the country’s Republic Day celebrations, which will be attended by French President Francois Hollande in New Delhi, police said.

Indian security agencies, which long denied the presence of IS in the country, turned the heat on the terror group following the Nov. 13 Paris attack and the online release last month of a IS manifesto, titled “Black Flags from the Islamic State” that claimed India was on the outfit’s radar for attacks.

Security agencies said they were investigating an anonymous postcard apparently from the IS that threatened to kill Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar. It was discovered in a post office in Goa last week.

Manhunt underway

Indian Police did not rule out the possibility of IS and AQIS pursuing terror plots in the country in collaboration with Pakistan-based militant outfits such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), which has been blamed for the recent attack on the Pathankot Air Force Station in Punjab.

“We are still interrogating (the suspects). There is a possibility of more militants hiding in the country. We are trying to ascertain their roles,” Delhi Police Special Cell Commissioner Arvind Deep told BenarNews.

He refused to divulge more information, saying it could interfere with the ongoing investigation.

K.B. Singh, Odisha’s director general of police, told BenarNews that a massive manhunt continues for suspected AQIS members hiding in the state.

A similar operation kicked off in Jharkhand following Sami’s arrest on Monday.

“We can’t rule out the possibility of more Jharkhand natives being involved (with AQIS). We are working on it,” the state’s Superintendant of Police, Ashwani Sinha, told BenarNews.

New Delhi-based security analyst retired Maj. Gen. Satbir Singh said there is reason to believe that the IS, Al-Qaeda and other militant outfits including AuT, LeT and JeM were helping each other.

“These groups are not isolated but are inter-connected, inter-operational and inter-functional. Their main strategy is to indulge in low-intensity, less-expenditure war. These groups believe they need to make inroads in India to attain success,” he told BenarNews.

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