The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has disclosed shocking details in a 4000-page charge sheet filed against six ISIS terrorists. The charge sheet, submitted to NIA Special Judge AK Lahoti, outlines the activities of the arrested individuals, namely Tabish Siddiqui, Zulfikar Ali Barodawala, Sharjeel Shaikh, Aakif Nachan, Zubair Shaikh, and Dr Adnanali Sarkar. All six were apprehended during the NIA’s crackdown on the Maharashtra ISIS module operating in Pune and Thane.
Corporate Professionals among Arrested Operatives
Based on statements from 16 witnesses, the charge sheet highlights the technical proficiency of the arrested terrorists. Notably, two of them held senior positions in corporate firms. Barodawala served as a senior project manager in a multinational company with an annual package of Rs 31 lakh, Zubair Shaikh worked as a senior associate, technology angular on RPA (Robotics Process Automation) with a tech-based company, and Sharjeel held a position as a retainer in an IT firm.
This revelation draws parallels to arrests made in the Hizb-u-Tahrir terror case, where individuals arrested by the Madhya Pradesh anti-terror squad (ATS) had diverse professional backgrounds, including a gym trainer, teacher, auto driver, tailor, computer technician, businessman, and software engineer.
Technical Proficiency and Corporate Positions
In 2015, Tabish established contact with Barodawala. According to the NIA charge sheet, the agency initially traced access to an ISIS email ID through the ISIS magazine.
Tabish sent an email to the terrorist group on July 31, 2016. On February 25, 2017, a reply was received, stating, “good job update your contact details number and address we will be in touch.”
Between 2015 and 2017-18, Tabish and Barodawala held numerous meetings. Subsequently, they took the “Bayath” (pledge of allegiance) towards the Khalifa of ISIS.
“Do It Yourself” Kit and Virtual Communication
As outlined in the NIA charge sheet, Tabish shared a PDF file of a “do it yourself (DIY)” kit titled “efficincy pdf” with an email ID belonging to ISIS.
Tabish provided information on how to achieve efficient intensity for a particular volume of white powder or any explosive substance.
“Tabish utilised a virtual number and Virtual Private Network (VPN) for communication with co-accused and Islamic State contacts on platforms such as Telegram and WhatsApp,” stated the NIA.
Additionally, Tabish shared ISIS content with contacts through the Telegram app and Facebook messenger. He remained in communication with his ISIS handlers, including someone identified as “Formula One,” since February 2023.
Tabish had intentions to travel and join ISIS, having prepared content and Urdu translations for publication in an ISIS-run magazine. Another piece of content titled “Istishadi Operation” claimed to signify a suicide operation, with his targets primarily being susceptible Muslims.
Furthermore, terrorist magazines, including “Voice of Hind” and “Voice of Khurasan,” were recovered from the arrested individuals.
Plans for Terrorist Activities
According to the NIA, the accused formulated plans to carry out terrorist activities across India in support of ISIS. Meetings for this purpose took place in Padgha-Borivali in Thane district between 2021-22.
The NIA stated, “It is evident from the statement of witnesses that accused A-2, A-4, and A-6 (Zulfikar Barodawala, Sharjeel Shaikh, and Akif Nachan) and others (including Shamil Nachan, accused in another NIA case) had several meetings in Chhoti Masjid, Padgha-Borivali. They planned the recruitment of gullible Muslim youth for the Islamic State (ISIS), furthering the activities of Islamic State by propagating the ideology of Daesh (ISIS) and carrying out violent jihad on the land of Al-Sham.”
Investigations have revealed a complex network of individuals dedicated to spreading the extremist and violent ISIS ideology in India. The accused aimed to instill fear among the people of India.
Furthermore, funds were raised, and the accused were involved in recruiting and training some youth to manufacture IEDs and small arms.
In a significant development within the Pune ISIS module case, Dr. Adnan Ali Sarkar, a practicing anesthesiologist, was arrested on July 27, 2023. The arrest followed an NIA raid at his residence in Kondhwa, Pune, occurring just weeks after the apprehension of Tabish Nasser Siddiqui from Mumbai, Zubair Noor Mohammed Shaikh alias Abu Nusaiba from Pune, and Sharjeel Shaikh and Zulfikar Ali Barodawala from Thane.
Documents recovered from Adnan’s flats unveiled his involvement in recruiting vulnerable youths, providing details on linking economically disadvantaged individuals with terrorist organisations. Additionally, photographs of the Jewish Community Center in Mumbai were found among the possessions of four accused, indicating that Jews in India were also targeted by the Islamic State.
The Mumbai Police heightened security at Chabad House in Colaba, one of the targets in the 26/11 terror attack. The arrested individuals, part of the ISIS module, reportedly planned aerial blasts using drones and conducted mock bomb blasts as part of their sinister intentions.
Aerial Blasts, Bomb Blast Tests, and Arrest of Shahnawaz
In shocking revelations, the terrorists conducted bomb blast tests in the forests of Pune, Kolhapur, and Satara, living in tents and learning the technique of aerial blasts through drones.
In July 2023, the Pune Police arrested Shahnawaz, along with Mohammad Imran Khan and Mohammad Saki from Madhya Pradesh, initially for a two-wheeler theft in Pune. Shahnawaz managed to escape, leading to a broader investigation into the Pune ISIS terror module. Three wanted terrorists, Talha Liaquat Khan of Pune, and Rizwan Abdul Haji Ali and Abdullah Faiyaz Shaikh of Delhi, were identified.
Shahnawaz was later captured by the Delhi Police in October, revealing that his wife, formerly a Hindu named Basanti Patel, converted to Islam and was known as Mariyam. The search for Mariyam and her sister is ongoing. Shahnawaz, a graduate from Nagpur’s NIT with a Btech in mining, has links with Barodawala, the reported mastermind and financier of the Pune ISIS terror module.
Barodawala provided training and funds to Mohammad Imran, Yunus, and Shahnawaz. Akif Atiq Nachan, the IED expert, hid Imran and Yunus. Mohammad Imran, a graphic designer, had stayed in the Kondwa flat of Imran and Yunus, receiving bomb-making training from Akif in 2022. Agencies are searching for others involved in the training.
A reward of Rs 5 lakh was placed on Imran’s head by the NIA in a case registered in Chittorgarh, Rajasthan. Cases were filed against Imran and his associates at the Kothrud police station, followed by UAPA charges against all accused.
The comprehensive charge sheet exposes how ISIS has been orchestrating extensive operations in India by consolidating various terrorist groups. It also reveals a network of self-radicalised individuals following the dangerous trend of radicalisation.