SILCHAR: Ever widening terrorist network across the country with gaping holes in the national security cover has once again been exposed with the arrest of 11 Maharashtrian youths based at Thane from the remote border village of Malai in Tripura, close to the hotbed of fundamentalist forces of Sylhet in Bangladesh. The sojourn of this band of missionaries as they claimed their affiliation of Tabligh-i-Jamaat all the way from Thane to the remotest last border village of North-East just 18 days before the Mumbai bomb blasts does reflect on our fragile intelligence and defence system.
Interrogations of these youths identified as Md Sheikh, Wajid, Irfan, Harun Rashid, Zafar Khan, Juned, Atif, Ashfaq, Afjal, Zaeed and Zaheer by intelligence and police officials have brought forth many intriguing facts. They, in fact, are SIMI (Students? Islamic Movement of India) activists and their mission was to build up a terrorist network in the border areas with support from Bangladesh as Tripura DGP G M Srivastava said, ?We have strong reason to suspect that the youths were here with some sinister design?.
Their link with SIMI has also been suspected by the Maharashtra police. The youths have confessed their attachment with Darul Faisal mosque of Thane and were here to preach and propagate Islam. But, links were missing in their version. Darul Faisal mosque itself clarified that the missionaries were to go to Manipur for Tablighi work, how could they land in Tripura. On being grilled further, they claimed to have been advised by Delhi'sNizamuddin mosque to work as tablighis. ?But, they did not have necessary registration cards, about the authenticity of the version?, said a police officer. In fact, the Tabligh headquarters in New Delhi provides registration cards whenever any such group goes out to preach Islam. What has baffled the Intelligence and police officials is their inability to explain why did they change their destination from Manipur to Tripura.
Police came across yet another startling revelation. It was a group of twelve. Where did another disappear? What is his identity? A police official identified the enigmatic person as Faisal Ansari. The investigators got certain clues and are trying to focus on possible links between Faisal and Ziabuddin Ansari, a key suspect in 7/11 Mumbai bomb blasts, who is an explosive expert from Bangladesh. The police official said that Faisal left the group on July 9, two days before the Mumbai blasts.
Much more skeletons were to roll out of the cupboard. The 12 missionaries under cloud had been sheltered at Ramnagar mosque on the out-skirt of Agartala and from there they were taken to Malai mosque and it did bring out yet another angle of their mysterious mission. The key figure in this operation?Dilwar Hussain of Ramnagar mosque?too was picked up for interrogation. One of the interrogators said, ?Hussain with Bangladeshi links acted as a conduit?.
Their camping at Malai village is clear indication that these youths were waiting for signal from Bangladesh either to sneak into for terrorist training or recruit cadres for Islamic fundamentalist group. Records with police show that many SIMI cadres were trained by Harkat -ul Jihad-al-Islami in Ukhia of Bangladesh. After training, these cadres return to the country and carry out terrorist activities or recruit jehadis. Harkat-ul Jihad-al-Islami provides them all facilities.
This has further added a disturbing dimension to the movement of youths as DGP G M Srivastava pointed out, ?Reports are that ISI backed terrorist outfits taking advantage of the Poros border rope in ill-motivated groups for their sinister activities?.
From all reckoning, it was mission Bangladesh for the youths. Though abortive, it calls for thorough probe. The composition of the group with queer mix up of professionals and diverse callings is not in itself above-board. Mohammad Sheikh, Wajid and Irfan are engineers; Harun Rashid and Zafar Khan worked in Dubai and Qatar while others are from different professions. Interestingly, Mohammad Sheikh, the leader, was in the USA when the World Trade Centre was hit.
Close on the heels of the detention of these Maharashtrians, another group of eight Gujarati youths were rounded up from Udaipur mosque, 50 kms from Agartala, the capital of Tripura. The police is looking into their SIMI attachment.
This was followed by yet another shocking development in Assam. As the Assam police joins nation wide hunt for the Mumbai bomb blasts suspects, it tumbled upon a 5-member group in Al Farhat Lodge in Guwahati on July 17. These youths have been identified as Abdullah Yusuf Ali of Chapra district of UP, Md Shahbuddin of Begusarai of Bihar, Mir Isa Haque and Sheikh Asraf Tarafdar from Orissa and Hasmat Reza of Hazari Bagh of Bihar. They had camouflaged their names as Hindus.
What baffled the police after their investigation was that they visited the famous Kamakhya temple twice. They could not explain why did they visit the holy shrine. ?It is now suspected that they may have been on a recce, probably to carry out terrorist attack on the holy shrine?, said a police official.
This sudden spurt in the movement of these youths in the guise of preachers and visitors in the sensitive North-east with dubious conduits across the border can'tbe seen in isolation. It may be part of a bigger conspiracy to destabilise the region. ?In the absence of POTA, it is very difficult to deal with such a critical situation?, pointed out the police official.
(The author can be contacted at Satsang Ashram Road, Silchar, Assam-788 007 e-mail: [email protected])