On October 2, 2023, the National Investigating Agency (NIA) apprehended three individuals with ties to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, who were plotting attacks within Bharat. All three detainees were engineers, devising a scheme to carry out an attack in the country. One of them was a wanted terrorist, recognised by the NIA, and a specialist in explosives, having graduated from the esteemed National Institute of Technology (NIT).
Following the arrest, Delhi Police Special Commissioner HGS Dhaliwal addressed the press, disclosing startling information about the suspected terrorists. “Mohammad Shahnawaz Alam, Mohammad Rizwan Ashraf & Arshad Warsi were taken into custody. All of them hold engineering degrees. They conducted surveillance at various locations in Western and Southern India,” stated the high-ranking officer. “They received support and endorsement from ISIS elements. Their influence spans across India,” he added.
Dhaliwal explained, “For a considerable period, the Special Cell has been monitoring the Indian Mujahideen & ISIS kingpin…Numerous such networks have been dismantled. In this line of action, the Special Cell issued a reward last month for three individuals implicated in various explosive cases.”
“The primary accused, Shahnawaz, was apprehended along with his two associates this morning…Another accused, Mohammad Rizwan, is currently evading arrest…They were presented in court and granted seven days of police custody,” he continued.
All the accused were brought before a specialized court and remanded to police custody for seven days. “Upon raiding their hideouts, a variety of equipment for manufacturing explosives was seized. Additionally, pistols, cartridges, and assorted literature on bomb-making were discovered,” Dhaliwal reported.
Who is Shahnawaz Alam?
Mohammed Shahnawaz Alam possesses a unique skill set in crafting sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using commonplace chemicals, as per law enforcement.
During interrogation, it was revealed that Alam extensively studied materials related to blasting techniques, blast designs, and rock blasting operations during his BTech course at NIT Visvesvaraya, Nagpur, in 2016. Allegedly, he utilised this knowledge to create IEDs. Several IED recipes using easily obtainable chemicals were retrieved from his phone. These methods included common substances like hydrogen peroxide, acetone, and hydrochloric acid, along with a detailed procedure for producing crystallized explosives capable of impacting an area within a 60-meter radius when detonated.
Who is Arshad Warsi?
The arrested associate, Arshad Warsi, 29, boasts an even more impressive resume. Warsi completed his BTech in mechanics followed by an MBA in marketing & operations. He was concurrently pursuing a PhD in Islamic principles in management from Jamia Millia Islamia. “He also serves as a physics instructor at an institute in Jamia Nagar and offers private tutoring in science and mathematics,” stated Special Commissioner of Police HGS Dhaliwal.
Alam, as revealed by the police, arrived in Delhi in November 2016 and resided in Abul Fazal Enclave in southeast Delhi. He frequented religious lectures at Shaheen Bagh and subsequently became influenced by the ideology of the terrorist organisation Islamic State. In the same year, he encountered Mohammed Rizwan Ashraf and established a friendship. They began following various pro-ISIS entities on platforms like Telegram.
Warsi disclosed to the police that after completing his BTech from Aligarh Muslim University, he arrived in Delhi in 2016 for further studies, settling in Jamia Nagar. He crossed paths with Alam while attending certain programs.
Who is Rizwan Ashraf?
Additional Commissioner Pramod Kushwaha explained, “Rizwan Ashraf, 28, was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to a middle-class family. His father was employed with a shipping company. He completed the Alimiyat in Arabic (equivalent to Class XII) in 2009 and pursued his BTech in information technology in Ghaziabad/Noida in 2017.”
Subsequently, Alam and Warsi initiated communication with a foreign handler purporting to be affiliated with IS. Under the handler’s guidance, Alam scouted potential areas in various states for planting IEDs and conducting targeted killings. Rizwan, according to the police, was in contact with the same foreign handler and had taken an oath to join ISIS.
Following their handler’s instructions, the module members sought forested locations to establish a base for preparing, testing, and storing IEDs. “They visited Lavasa, Mahabaleshwar, Goa, Hubli, the Saraswati wildlife area in Karnataka, Udupi, Kerala, Valsad wildlife sanctuary, Nallamala mountain ranges, and Chandauli to find suitable hideouts and bases in the Western Ghats,” stated an officer. The police have retrieved geographical maps of India with markings indicating these spots. The suspects also possessed a map of west Rajasthan detailing the IED testing location. During questioning, Alam and Warsi admitted to initially crafting sample IEDs and testing them in remote areas of Rajasthan and Uttarakhand.
Shahnawaz’s Interfaith Marriage and Conversion
In March 2021, Alam married Basanti Patel, a woman from Aligarh, who subsequently converted to Islam, adopting the name Khadeeja Maryam. When the police raided the hideouts on Sunday, they discovered a range of materials used in the fabrication of IEDs. “There were glass bottles of acid alongside plastic containers containing chemicals, powders of various colours, etc., which have all been sent for forensic examination,” disclosed Kushwaha.
To enhance the destructive potential of the IEDs, the module employed small steel balls. Members allegedly collected phosphorus from matchsticks and firecrackers to fill the IEDs. “We have found a significant number of matchboxes. The prepared mixture was placed in iron pipes and secured with electrical tape,” detailed the officer.
For detonation, the module simply utilized Chinese LED decoration lights, many of which come equipped with a remote. Additionally, a timer watch was employed in the IEDs prepared by the men. The police also seized batteries, connectors, and mobile phones from the suspects.