BHUBANESWAR/ROURKELA: In a swift mid-night swoop, four operatives of terror group Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), absconding since the 2013 Khandwa Jail break in Madhya Pradesh, were arrested by a joint squad of Odisha, Telangana Police and the Intelligence Bureau at Rourkela on the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday.
A 60-year-old woman, mother of one of the four terror suspects, was also held following the four hour-long operation in a Muslim locality of the Steel City. Three pistols, 11 round ammunition, four daggers and seven to eight mobile phones were seized from their possession.
The exercise which started around Tuesday mid-night led to exchange of fire as terror operatives first offered resistance. However, the team pooled from Special Tactical Unit (STU) of Special Operation Group (SOG), Rourkela Police, Telangana Police and IB managed to draw them out.
The four were identified as Sk Mehboob, Amzad Khan, Zakir Hussain and Md Saleq, all of whom are in the age group of 28 to 35 years. Sixty-year-old Nazma Biwi, was mother of Mehboob, police said. All of them are natives of Khandwa.
Director General of Police KB Singh said, the four were wanted in a series of terror acts, murder and bank robbery across Madhya Pradesh, Telengana, Tamil Nadu, UP and Maharashtra. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), the premier anti terror probe body, wanted them in three cases. The four carried a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh each on their heads.
“It was a purely intelligence-based operation and combined effort of multiple agencies. The STU, urban counter terrorism squad of State Police, was pressed into operation for the first time. This is one of the major successes of Odisha Police,” the DGP told mediapersons here at Bhubaneswar.
Preliminary investigation revealed that the five had taken a house on rent at Qureshy Mohalla in Nala Road area under Plant Site Police Station where they have been staying there for last three to four months.
Special Director (Intelligence) of Odisha Police Arun Kumar Sarangi said, they were trying to acquire a fake identity.
One of them had secured a fake PAN card in the name of Gopal Singh and a bank account was also created. A local insurance agent Naveen Sahu, who had allegedly helped them get the identity, has also been detained and being questioned.
“We have been keeping a watch on their movements for last few months and trying to ascertain if they wanted to carry out any operation. Since the entire unit was together for the last three to four days, we suspected that they may move out of Rourkela and intervened,” Sarangi said.
The four were part of the seven SIMI activists who had broken out of Khandwa Jail in the intervening night of September 30-October 1 in 2013. A day later, Abid Mirza, one of the seven, was nabbed. Fifteen day later, Abul Fazal, also known as Doctor and the group leader, was arrested.
The rest three were later joined by Saleq, Md Aslam and Mf Aijazuddin. Between 2014 and 2015, the six have allegedly been involved in about 17 cases of terror blasts, murder of policemen and bank heist over the last 4 years in Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharasthtra and UP. They are also suspected to be involved in one bank robbery in Sundergarh.
On April 1, 2015, the group had killed a policeman and a home guard in Suryapet in Nalgonda district of Telangana after they were intercepted by the cops. Later in a police encounter, Md Aslam and Md Aijazuddin were killed on April 2.
The rest four have been moving across the country ever since. The DGP said, they had travelled to 14 States and had as many as 18 hideouts which were later identified by IB. After the prison escape, they had stayed at Sambalpur for a while in 2014. Madhya Pradesh Police had visited Sambalpur after tracking their movement.
They used Rourkela as one of their shelter ground too. However, no connection of the terror suspects with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's February 21 visit to Bargarh has been found. The security agencies are also investigating if they had any plans in the State.
Inspector General, Western Range RK Sharma said the arrested operatives are the last of the Khandwa module of SIMI. He said they were frequently changing their locations and used both Hindu and Muslim identities. After their arrest, the activists showed no remorse over their fanatic idealism.
Sharma said efforts are underway to establish if they had any local contact and their house owner would also be interrogated. The SIMI operatives are believed to have run out of cash and planning a bank heist in Chhattisgarh soon before the security agencies caught up with the four.
Time Line of Activities
September 30-October 1: Seven SIMI operatives, including the four, escaped Khandwa Jail in MP by scaling the walls. They assaulted an interception party and snatched a rifle before fleeing.
February: The group was behind a Rs 46 lakh robbery from a PSU bank in Telangana's Karimnagar district.
May 1: The Khandwa module of SIMI was behind the IED blast in Guwahati-Bengaluru Express train at Chennai in which a lady IT professional was killed.
July 14: A low intensity blast near a Ganesh Temple in Pune. None injured.
September 11: An accidental explosion in UP’s Bijnaur during preparation of IED explosives. One of the four was injured. NIA is probing it.
April 2: Shot dead two policemen, a constable and a homeguard, at Suryapet in Nalgonda district of Telangana when their fake ID cards were being verified during an interception. They had used the voter ID card of a Rourkela youth while travelling in a train.
April 4: Md Aslam and Ma Aijazuddin were killed in police encounter in Janakipuram in Nalgonda district.