KOLKATA: Close proximity to the Indo-Bangladesh border is a safe haven for Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorists attempting to sneak into the country, according to a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) memo, which was sent to the West Bengal Government.
An NIA team from New Delhi will be interrogating Zahid Hossain, a close aide of IM co-founder Yasin Bhatkal, responsible for several blasts, including the German Bakery in Pune in 2010.
Hossain was arrested by a Special Task Force (STF) of the city police on Wednesday, from the railway station here, when he was about to board a train to Darbhanga in Bihar. He had sneaked into the country through Bongaon on the Indo-Bangladesh border.
At the time of his arrest, he was carrying a bag containing fake Indian currency, ammunition, wires,detonators, batteries, and explosives. During interrogation, the STF realised that Hossain was a “key operative of the Indian Mujahideen”, and he admitted to having supplied explosives to Bhatkal, smuggled in from Pakistan via Bangladesh, for `30 lakh.
The alleged Bangladeshi national, 57, told his interrogators that he had met Bhatkal at a tea stall in the city and handed aover eight kgof explosives, three days before the Pune blast.
He also knew about the blasts carried out at Gandhi Maidan in Patna, just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public meeting.
The sleuths are now trying to establish Hossain’s connection with Hyder Ali, who was involved in the Patna blasts, and told the NIA after his arrest that he was provided shelter in Bangladesh by an explosive expert from Pakistan.
Hossain had been trained in explosives by Abdul Karim Tunda, a bomb-making expert who is also in police custody.
With funds provided by Bhatkal, Hossain started an export business in Bangladesh and frequently visited Pakistan. He had also been to Saudi Arabia to meet Abu Bakar, a Pakistani ideologue with terror links.
Hossain had made several trips to the city and handed over AK 47 rifles and ammunition to many other IM operatives who had come from the other states. All these men had been trained in terror camps in Pakistan.
Hossain revealed that several IM operatives in Bangladesh were believed to have entered West Bengal, crossing the border to Nadia and North 24 Parganas districts. with weapons and explosives. These terrorists operated through cow and gold smugglers, many of whom would take shelter at his den at Mirpur near Dhaka and received money for facilitating the entry of IM men into West Bengal.
The STF has identified a cow smuggler in Murshidabad district who is one of the main linkmen and efforts are on to nab him. A team of Maharashtra Police has also reached the city to interrogate Hossain.
The STF also found mobile telephone numbers of several IM and Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) from Hossain’s phone and alerted the police in several other states, including Kerala, where SIMI “sleeper cells” are active.
An STF officer said, “Just before his arrest, Hossain had spoken to a top IM leader and also a man in Pakistan who is involved in manufacturing fake Indian currency there.
“Because of his fluency in both Bengali and Urdu, we are not sure about his actual nationality. He might be a Pakistani based in Bangladesh, with ISI sponsors, who are active in areas close to the Indian border,” he said.
Hossain has been with the IM for the last six years. Earlier, he was involved in professional smuggling of explosives and fake Indian currency.
He had been arrested by the Maharashtra Police long ago, with a firearm, but he was not involved in terrorist activities at that time. He got bail in that case and then fled to Bangladesh.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has alerted the Border Security Force (BSF) about possible incursions of the IM terrorists, along with other infiltrators into Murshidabad, Nadia, and North 24 Parganas districts of the state.
The BSF has increased its patrol on the Indo-Bangladesh border in these districts, where many Muslim fundamentalist organisations are very active.