The National Investigation Agency (NIA) got a big shot in the arm in its nationwide crackdown on ISIS, with the agency’s Special Court, Lucknow (UP), convicting eight men in a conspiracy case of planning terrorist acts.
These ISIS operatives had been arrested in the Kanpur conspiracy case in 2017, under various sections of the IPC, the UA(P), the Arms Act and the Explosive Substances Act.
Thr NIA's investigations had earlier revealed that the accused had prepared and tested some IEDs and had unsuccessfully tried to plant them at various locations in UP. A notebook seized from their Haji Colony (Lucknow) hideout was found to contain handwritten notes about potential targets and details about bomb making. Investigations had also led to the discovery of several photographs of the accused making IEDs and even with weapons, ammunition and ISIS flag.
The group had reportedly collected illegal weapons, explosives etc from various places. One of the accused, Atif Muzaffar, had also disclosed that he had compiled information on techniques to fabricate IEDs after collecting materials from various internet sources.
The investigations had also revealed that Atif and three others, identified as Md Danish, Syed Meer Hasan and Md Saifulla had been responsible for fabricating the IED that was planted in the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train. The train explosion on March 7, 2017, had left 10 injured. This case was also investigated by NIA and is currently under trial.
The breakthrough in the ISIS-backed criminal conspiracy case came when the main accused, identified as Md Faisal of Kanpur Nagar, UP., was arrested for his involvement in the M.P. train explosion of March 7, 2017.
The disclosures made by him led to the arrest of two of his associates, Gauss Mohammad Khan alias Karan Khatri and Azhar Khan @ Azhar Khalifa, on March 9.
After taking over the investigations, NIA arrested five more accused in the case. They were identified as Atif Muzaffar, Mohammad Danish, Asif Iqbal and Mohammad Atif, all hailing from Kanpur Nagar, and Sayed Meer Hussain of district Kannouj, UP. A chargesheet was filed by NIA against all the eight arrested accused on August 31, 2017.
The investigations in the case had clearly shown that the accused were members of ISIS and had sworn ‘bayat’ (allegiance) to the Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Atif Muzaffar was the group’s Emir (leader) and was influenced by the propaganda of Dr Zakir Naik. He was found to be a frequent visitor of IS-related websites, from where he was downloading contents and videos and sharing it with the others in his group, officials said.
All eight had come together to propagate ISIS ideology and promote its activities in India. In pursuit of this objective, Mohammad Faisal, Gauss Mohammad Khan, Atif Muzaffar, Md Danish, Md Saifulla had explored land routes. They had visited several key cities across the country, including Kolkata, Sundarbans, Srinagar, Amritsar, Wagha Border, Badmer, Jaisalmer, Mumbai, and Kozhikode, for undertaking ‘hijrah’ (migration). Gauss Mohammad Khan and Atif Muzaffar had, in fact, explored a route to cross over to Bangladesh via Sundarbans, as per the investigations. Faisal, Atif and Saifulla had also travelled to Kashmir in March 2016 in a bid to contact some terrorist groups that could help them to cross over to Pakistan, from where they could migrate to ISIS controlled territories in Syria.
Another accused, Saifulla, was killed during exchange of fire with ATS UP on March 7, 2017, in Haji Colony. The Police had seized several weapons and incriminating documents from the group’s hideout in Haji Colony.
These seizures included a huge cache of arms, ammunitions, electronic gadgets and other materials required to fabricate IEDs, and documents (diaries/ literature/ handwritten documents) including an ISIS flag, eight Pistols, 4 knives, 630 rounds live cartridges of 7.65mm (32 bore), 62 rounds fired cartridges of 7.65mm, 5 gold coins and cash worth Rs 62,055/-, foreign currencies, cheques, passports, 5,Mobile phones, 2 walkie-talkie sets, 2,compass, clock timer, 9 trigger switches, 3 ‘T’ shaped cast Iron pieces, steel balls, SIM cards and a train time table.