New Delhi/Kolkata, Sep 19 (PTI) Foiling an attempt by internationally banned terror group al-Qaeda to set up a base in India, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) swooped on its cadres in West Bengal and Kerala and arrested nine of them, an official spokesperson said on Saturday.
Acting on a tip-off provided by central intelligence agencies, the NIA, with the help of the state police forces, carried out raids in the intervening night of September 18 and 19 at Ernakulam in Kerala and Murshidabad in West Bengal and arrested the nine men -- Murshid Hasan, Iyakub Biswas, Mosaraf Hossen from Ernakulam and Najmus Sakib, Abu Sufiyan, Mainul Mondal, Leu Yean Ahmed, Al Mamun Kamal and Atitur Rehman from Murshidabad.
Hasan is the leader of the gang and those arrested from Kerala are also originally residents of West Bengal, the NIA spokesperson said.
A closely-monitored operation of the NIA and other central agencies began on September 11 when the premier investigating agency registered a case to probe the al-Qaeda module.
According to the official, crackers were being attempted to be converted into an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and the NIA recovered switches and batteries from Abu Sufiyan's house during the raids.
The group was also planning to go to Kashmir for weapons delivery as it intended to launch terror attacks on vital installations in the country with an aim to kill innocent people, the official said.
A preliminary probe revealed that the arrested men were radicalised by Pakistan-based al-Qaeda terrorists on social media platforms and were motivated to launch attacks at multiple locations, including in the National Capital Region (NCR).
The module was actively involved in fund-raising and some of its members were planning to travel to New Delhi to procure arms and ammunition, the official said, adding that the arrests have prevented possible terrorist attacks in various parts of the country.
Incriminating materials, including digital devices, documents, jihadi literature, sharp weapons, country-made firearms, a locally-fabricated body armour, articles and literature for making home-made explosive devices, have been seized from the possession of the arrested terrorists, the official said.
They will be produced before the courts concerned in Kerala and West Bengal for custody and further investigation, he added.
According to the officials investigating the case, the arrested men are highly radicalised and were getting instructions from foreign handlers, including Pakistan-based al-Qaeda operatives, in cyberspace.
The module was planning to target vital installations in India as well as targeted killings.
It was in the advanced stage of procuring arms (including automatic rifles and pistols), ammunition and explosives to carry out attacks.
Some of its members were trying to develop expertise in IED-making too.
Besides, the module was trying to establish a well organised al-Qaeda network in different parts of the country, including the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir, on the instructions of the Pakistan-based handlers, the official said. PTI CPS/SCH SKL RC