Odisha is considered as one of the states in Bharat with peace and tranquillity. But now it looks like all set to lose its unique tag with Delhi police arresting 37-year-old Abdur Rehman just 40 km from State capital Bhubaneswar with alleged dreaded overseas terror links. “Investigations revealed that Rehman worked as an organiser, felicitator and recruiter of al-Qaeda’s Indian wing”, Bhubaneswar police commissioner RP Sharma said while displaying photographs of Abdur Rehman in a Press Conference in Bhubaneswar.
Rehman was held after tracking his phone calls in Paschimkachha village under Jagatpur Police Station limits in the outskirts of Cuttack city. This was the first arrest of a local man for alleged overseas terror links in Odisha. The madrasa of Rehman was in just 10 km radius of Indian Air Force Base at Charbatia in Cuttack district.
Sources said Rehman did his schooling in a madrasa and completed higher studies in Islamic theology from Deoband in Uttar Pradesh. He runs a madrasa, where most of his students are said to be from Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. A mobile phone, a passport and a tablet were seized from him following the raid. Preliminary the top officer said, ‘Rehman, a father of three, was wanted by Delhi Police after its special cell lodged a case against several terror operatives’. The suspect was taken to Delhi for interrogation after a court in Cuttack approved his transit remand.
Police said ‘Rehman is allegedly a key operative of the al-Qaeda Indian Sub-continent (AQ-IS), which was formed in September 2014 to expand the terror group’s footprint in Bharat, Pakistan and Bangladesh’.
Prelimenary investigations as informed by Odisha police revealed that Rehman had gone to Pakistan for training alongwith another operative, Mohammed Asif of Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh, in 2013. Asif has already been arrested by Delhi Police. During interrogation, Asif revealed the identity of Maulana Asim Umar, the self-proclaimed emir of AQ-IS. Police sources said Asif was allegedly present at the grand shura of al-Qaeda when the terror group’s Bharateeya subcontinent wing was established. Al-Qaeda chief Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri was also reportedly present at the shura.
Rehman allegedly has links with terror operatives in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. Besides, he is found to have links with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Dubai and London, an officer said. Investigating agencies are probing if he has terror plans in Odisha and elsewhere in the country. It is revealed that in 2001, his elder brother Tahir Ali was arrested in Kolkata in connection with the terror attacks on the American embassy there.
Earlier Ramchandran Subash, a Tamil Nadu native, in November last was arrested for burning five compartments of three trains at Puri station and latter it was traced that the accused had links with dreaded terrorists. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is trying to find out if Subash was involved in similar incidents of train arson which could be coordinated dummy run of terror groups.
From interrogation it was revealed to Delhi police that Abdur Rehman was identified to be working on terror module in Odisha in close coordination with them. It was revealed that Rehman’s illegal madrasa brainwashed young boys and imparted heavy physical training including practice of firing in a firing range created on the banks of a river. Police found huge transfer of funds from overseas accounts to Abdur Rehman.
Following the incident Odisha has increased its surveillance in 480 km long coast line and increased security in the vital installations like religious centres Puri, Konark and Lingaraj temple, Ports and security institutions like ITER Test Range etc.
—Samanwaya Nanda, Odisha