The alleged terror module busted by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in Aurangabad on Monday was apparently planning to assassinate some ‘Hindu leaders’ in Maharashtra, ATS sources said on Tuesday. While two members of the module were arrested and a third killed in an encounter in Aurangabad on Monday, the ATS arrested two other alleged members of the group from Chikli in Buldhana district early on Tuesday.
The two have been identified as Aqeel Khilji (45), who was allegedly SIMI’s chief in Madhya Pradesh, and Mohammed Zaffar Hussain Qureshi (32). The police have recovered a 7.65 mm pistol, five live rounds, a pen drive and jehadi literature from them. Cops have identified two bank accounts operated by Khilji.
The ATS had arrested Mohammed Abrar Babu Khan alias Abrar Shaikh, a wanted accused in the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts. While another member, Khalil Qureshi, was killed, a third, Mohammed Shakir, was injured and taken into custody.
“Besides attempting to set up bases in Aurangabad, Jalna and Buldhana and recruit people in the state, they were planning to assassinate some prominent Hindu leaders in Maharashtra. These leaders could be from the BJP, VHP or RSS. However, they have not divulged any names yet,” said an ATS source. Investigators suspect that the module could have targeted foreigners in Aurangabad for ransom. “The ransom would be used to finance terror activities. This method has been used by the Indian Mujahideen (IM).”
“Besides attempting to set up base in Maharashtra, they were also trying to recruit people. We have a fair idea of their network in the state, but with interrogation, we will be able to confirm our information. This group is clearly affiliated to the Indian Mujahideen,” said Additional Director General of Police (ATS) Rakesh Maria.
“After the arrests of Abu Faisal and Safdar Nagori in MP, Khilji was looking after SIMI’s activities in the state. He became the SIMI chief in MP. There are eight offences registered against Khilji. Five cases are under the UAPA, which include two attempted murders, and the other three are regular IPC cases. Qureshi is wanted in two offences in MP,” said Maria. Khilji, Mohammed Abrar and Abu Faisal were allegedly in touch with IM operatives Abdus Subhan Qureshi alias Tauqeer and Qayamuddin Kapadia. “In fact, when Tauqeer fled from his home in Mumbai in 2008, Abu Faisal and Aqeel sheltered him for three-four months,” said Maria.