Azamgarh, the terror cradle of India, is once again on the counter-terrorism radar after the February 21 Hyderabad bomb blasts, which killed 16 people and injured 119. Intelligence agencies and the Andhra Pradesh police are tracking the pugmarks of absconding high-profile Indian Mujahideen operatives — the outfit which is suspected to have carried out the blasts with the help of their Pakistan-based mentors.
Sources say that they have come across telephone intercepts through SUSTEL - the electronic system monitoring of terrorist chatter - showing that Assadullah Akhtar alias Tabrez, a leading operative of the Azamgarh module of Indian Mujahideen, has been active in South India of late.
“Assadullah was seen in some southern states. Simultaneously, we had tracked the footprints of the Nepal module as well in those states. Immediately afterwards, an initial terror alert was issued by the Central intelligence agencies on February 16,” says an intelligence source.
Assadullah is the son of a leading orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Javed Akhtar, based in Azamgarh. He is also suspected to be involved in the Pune blasts in August 2012. “Two other Pune bombers are missing, and we are tracking them. Central agencies have received some electronic intercepts which suggest that at least 8 to 9 modules could have actively participated in planning and executing the Hyderabad blasts,” says the source.
He also adds that the Hyderabad blasts bear the IM imprint - the use of separate modules for planning and execution. ‘‘Assadullah is suspected to have carried out the planning and the bombs could have been planted by the local modules of the Deccan Mujahideen,” he said. Deccan Mujahideen is a splinter group of IM.
Intelligence agencies warn that electric and hydropower projects in South India are next on the radar of the terrorist outfits and an advisory for stringent security deployment has been issued.
An earlier arrest in 2005 of Rae Bareilly-born Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorist Imran had given investigators a clear picture of the IM’s modus operandi and how Hyderabad is a priority terror target. According to security agency sources, IM modules were already planning terror strikes in Hyderabad, but after Afzal Guru’s hanging, the timing acquired greater urgency.