New Delhi: Tehsin Akhtar alias Monu, the outlawed Indian Mujahideen’s (IM) current chief of Indian operations who is an expert in bomb-making, has finally been arrested, Delhi Police announced Tuesday.
Delhi Police Special Commissioner S.N. Srivastava said 23-year-old Akhtar was formally arrested from near Kakarvitta on the Nepal border Tuesday morning while he was entering India. He was coming from Kathmandu.
Akhtar, once a close aide and a protege of arrested IM’s co-founder Ahmad Siddibappa Zarar alias Yasin Bhatkal, was wanted for a series of terrorist strikes in various states.
“After Bhatkal’s arrest, Akhtar was handling all India-based modules of the outfit apart from being the key link between IM and other splinter terror outfits which have emerged from the umbrella of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI),” said Srivastava.
Police officials described the arrest as a major breakthrough in the war against the shadowy group.
Akhtar, a resident of Samastipur in Bihar, was part of Indian Mujahideen’s plan to create mayhem during the staggered Lok Sabha polls starting April 7.
Investigators said Akhtar, the tech-savvy terrorist, was the prime motivator tasked with developing new modules for the outfit and had also become the vital link between the IM and other radical extremist groups emerging from the banned SIMI.
Akhtar was in constant touch with Pakistani national Waqas, who was arrested last Friday from Rajasthan also by Delhi Police.
Akhtar was reportedly involved in bomb attacks in several places since 2010, the year he reportedly joined IM. The strikes include a blast at Varanasi’s Sheetla Ghat during the evening ‘aarti’, the 2011 serial blasts in Mumbai and the twin bombings in Hyderabad in 2013.
Following an Intelligence Bureau alert, Delhi Police arrested Waqas and his associates Mohammad Mahruf, Waqar Azhar and Shaquib Ansari from Jaipur and Jodhpur in Rajasthan Friday and Saturday. Delhi Police announced these arrests Sunday.
Police also recovered explosives, detonators, electronic circuits and timers from the arrested men.
Akhtar was the one who received Pakistani national Waqas at the Kathmandu airport in September 2010 and brought him to Delhi to carry out the Jama Masjid bomb attack.
Police sources believe Akhtar was being controlled by India Mujahideen’s absconding leader Riyaz Bhatkal, who is involved in several terror attacks in India.
Interrogation of Waqas revealed that Akhtar stayed with him at Munnar in Kerala from December 2013 till mid-January.
“He told Waqas to go to Rajasthan. He also went there for a few days but later left for Kathmandu. He was operating beyond the Indian borders but was on and off visiting various cities in India for keeping a tab on IM’s sleeper modules being coordinated by Pakistan-based Bhatkal brothers Riyaz and Iqbal,” said Srivastava.
Srivastava said Akhtar’s next plan was to change his hideout from Kathmandu to another neighbouring country for which he entered Indian territory.
“IM’s bosses had assured him to provide shelter for the time being. But, he was unlucky. As soon as he entered Kakarvitta region, he was arrested,” Srivastava said.
After executing the Hyderabad bombings in 2013, Akhtar took shelter in Jaipur and Jodhpur where he cultivated the Rajasthan module of IM, consisting of Mahruf, Waqar and Shaquib.
He left Rajasthan after the arrest of Yasin Bhatkal and Assadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, who is in judicial custody in Delhi.
A highly motivated and slippery IM operative, Tehsin was wanted for a series of blasts across the country, including the October 27, 2013 attack on a Narendra Modi rally in Patna.
An attempt by intelligence agencies to prod him to surrender through his parents in Samastipur, Bihar was rejected by Tehsin with a terse message that said, “I am not a misguided youth. I know what I am doing.”
Tehsin was also wanted for the Varanasi blasts in 2010, triple blasts in Mumbai in 2011, Pune blasts on August 1, 2012, Hyderabad’s Dilsukhnagar blasts in February 2013 and Bihar’s Bodh Gaya blasts in July 2013.
An early recruit of IM’s Darbhanga module, Tehsin is a close associate of Yasin Bhatkal and has not only been a planter of many bombs but also a motivator for the outfit. Apart from Yasin, Tehsin used to scout for young Muslim men in a Darbhanga library and indoctrinate them by talking about atrocities against Muslims and preaching a puritanical and fundamentalist version of Islam.
It was Tehsin who established the Ranchi module which was behind both Bodh Gaya and Patna blasts.
Son of a small-time chemist from Maniyarpur village in Samastipur, Tehsin has remained an evasive blob on the radars of security agencies for several years. He escaped from a flat that he shared with Waqas in Mangalore after news of Yasin’s arrest was leaked to the media in August last year.
His meteoric rise in the jihadi ranks came within three years of joining IM and partnering Bhatkal in planting bombs in Varanasi in 2010. Intelligence agencies believe that IM founder in Pakistan Riyaz Bhatkal developed sufficient confidence in Akhtar to let him carry out serial bombings in Hyderabad on his own last year. He carries a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head.
The source stated that Monu is big catch for the Indian agency as he was a leading IM in India since last two years.
Before Monu, Yasin Bhatkal was leading IM operations in India. The Indian agency managed to arrest Yasin last year from India-Nepal border.