New Delhi: A two-year Intelligence Bureau trail helped the NIA to bust Islamic State sympathizers planning to carry out terror attacks in Hyderabad, official sources said on Thursday.
The Intelligence Bureau had been tracking the group since 2014 after getting information about the links of its members with their contacts in Syria. The Islamic State had just become active.
"For the last five or six months, the IB was trailing them from very close range," an official in the know told IANS.
"The residences, schools and colleges as well as work places of the suspects were under strict watch. Their mobile numbers, Facebook accounts and other activities were monitored," the official said.
When the suspects bought large quantities of chemicals suspected to be urea or ammonium nitrate powder as well as acid, acetone, hydrogen peroxide - which are precursor substances for making deadly explosives - around two weeks ago, it led to serious concerns.
Some officials felt that attacks may be imminent and decided to act.
"The suspects might have planned to make some lethal concoction of explosives," the official said.
The information was finally shared with the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Names of five suspects planning possible terror strikes in Hyderabad were passed on to the NIA.
The NIA filed a First Information Report (FIR) on June 22 against five Hyderabad youths: Mohammed Iliyas Yazdani, 24, his brother Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani, 29, Habib Mohammed, 32, Mohammed Irfan alias Yaqais, 26, and Abdullah Bin Ahmed Al Amoodi alias Fahad, 30.
The NIA then sought permission from a Hyderabad court to conduct multiple raids to bust the group. This happened on June 28. The raids happened the next day.
At that time, the intelligence agencies were not sure if the group was linked to the Islamic State or some group in Pakistan.
The official said that hours after a secret briefing to the raiding team, which included select police officers, the NIA carried out searches at 10 places in Hyderabad on Wednesday morning.
"The operation was successful. We nabbed 11 suspects including the five named in the FIR," the official said. "Huge arms and explosives along with IED manufacturing materials were also seized."
Five of 11 suspects were formally arrested after 12 hours of questioning. The other six -- Syed Naimath Ullah Hussaini, 42, Muzaffar Hussain Rizwan, 29, Mohammed Ataullah Rehman, 30, Abdul, 32, A.M. Azhar, 20, and Mohammed Arbaz Ahmed, 21 -- were let off on Wednesday night but again questioned at a secret location in Hyderabad on Thursday.
"During their questioning, we learnt that the group was being directed by a common handler of the Islamic State based in Syria," the official said.
Computer science graduate Habib and commerce student Mohammed Iliyas, who dropped out after his first year at a Hyderabad college, were said to be the key suspects.
Iliyas had an agency that provided services to procure PAN cards and birth certificates.
The official said Iliyas and Habib once had online contact with Karnataka's Muhammad Shafi Armar, a fugitive Indian Mujahideen operative now leading a group of Indians fighting with the Islamic State.