Officers of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Sunday interrogated the six alleged al-Qaeda terrorists, arrested the day before from Bengal’s Murshidabad district, for more than ten hours at the agency’s office at Salt Lake in the eastern outskirts of Kolkata.
The agency has plans to fly the suspects to Delhi on Monday evening. Before that they will be questioned by a team of the Special Task Force (STF) of the Kolkata Police, officers aware of the developments said.
An officer from the state CID questioned the suspects on Sunday evening.
Officials aware of the developments also said that bank accounts of two of the suspects showed deposits that did not match their income. Efforts were being made to find out if the arrested men were members of a common social media group. It is also being probed whether they had recruited people from other districts, especially Birbhum, where gelatin sticks stolen from stone quarries have been smuggled in large quantities in recent years.
The arrested men were examined by doctors from a local hospital on Sunday since they are in transit police remand.
Significantly, the arrests were made five days after a NIA court in Kolkata ordered a seven-year jail sentence and fine for two men connected with the 2014 IED blast at Khagragarh in Burdwan district where the banned terrorist organization Jamat-ul-Mujaheedin of Bangladesh (JMB) was operating a cell.
On Saturday, NIA teams conducted simultaneous raids at several locations at Ernakulum in Kerala and Murshidabad and arrested nine men suspected to be associated with a Pakistan sponsored module of al-Qaeda.
The three men arrested in Kerala were identified as Murshid Hasan, Iyakub Biswas and Mosaraf Hossen. Those arrested in Murshidabad are Najmus Sakib, Abu Sufiyan, Mainul Mondal, Leu Yean Ahmed, Al Mamun Kamal and Atitur Rehman.
The NIA said that it got to know about an inter-state module of al-Qaeda operatives at various locations in India including West Bengal and Kerala. The group was planning to undertake terrorist attacks in Delhi and at vital installations in India with an aim to kill innocent people, the agency said in a statement.
According to the NIA, incriminating material including digital devices, documents, jihadi literature, sharp weapons, country-made firearms, a locally fabricated body armour, articles and literature used for making home-made explosive devices were seized from the possession of the arrested men.
“As per preliminary investigation, these individuals were radicalised by Pakistan-based al-Qaeda terrorists on social media and were motivated to undertake attacks at multiple places including the National Capital Region. For this purpose, the module was actively indulging in fund raising and a few members of gang were planning to travel to New Delhi to procure arms and ammunition. These arrests have pre-empted possible terrorist attacks in various parts of the country,” said a NIA statement.
On September 15, a NIA court in Kolkata ordered a seven-year jail sentence for two men in the 2014 Khagragarh blast case. Mustafizzur Rehman alias Saqib alias Tuhin was arrested in December, 2018 and convicted under Section 120B and 125 of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 18, 18A, 18B, 19 and 20 of the UA (P) Act.
The second convict, Kadar Kazi alias Kador was arrested in January 2019. He was convicted under Section 120B and 125 of the IPC and Section 18 and 20 of the UA (P) Act.
On October 2, 2014, the IED went off accidentally when it was being assembled by JMB members who had taken the house on rent to carry out operations. Two people died in the blast while a third suffered injuries. The case was initially probed by the state police before NIA took over the case.