Shahnawaz Alam, a key arrested accused in the Maharashtra terror module that was busted in July this year, was in contact with a foreign-based ISIS (Islamic State) handler and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan through a Delhi-based operative.
NIA identified a crucial middleman as Harish Farooqui
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has successfully identified this crucial middleman as Harish Farooqui, a key absconding accused in the Delhi ISIS terror module. Officials said that Farooqui was also in constant touch with two other arrested operatives, Rizwan Ashraf and Mohammad Arshad Warsi, who were arrested by the Delhi special cell. They said he is also in contact with a fugitive terrorist from Hyderabad, Farhatullah Ghori, linked to Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Farooqui has a key role in the Aligarh module, according to NIA
The NIA said Farooqui also played a key role in establishing the Aligarh module. Alam, during interrogation, admitted to knowing Farooqui since 2010. Farooqui, a former Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) student, allegedly played a crucial role in founding the Students of Aligarh Muslim University (SAMU) group, of which Alam was an active member. Alam revealed that Farooqui held the title of 'Ameer' (a person whose shared ideology was followed by everyone) within the group, which distributed ISIS literature to persuade others to join the outfit using online platforms and secret meetings.
UP Anti-Terrorism Squad arrested 6 suspects
Based on details emerging from Alam's interrogation, the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad raided locations in Aligarh and arrested six suspects linked with him and Farooqui. All the arrested persons with AMU links were highly radicalised by ISIS handlers.
Alam visited Delhi in Nov 2016 for competitive exam preparation
The NIA said that Alam visited New Delhi in November 2016 for SSC competitive exam preparation, during which he also attended lectures by Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT), a global Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organisation at Shaheen Bagh. However, he later decided to disassociate himself from HuT as he was influenced by the ISIS ideology since his college days.
Subsequently, he started following various Twitter accounts and news channels that professed ISIS ideology. He also started attending secret meetings of SAMU, where he met Farooqui. In 2020, Alam initiated communication with a foreign-based ISIS handler, unaware that Farooqui was also connected with the same handler and ISI leaders. Both were unaware of each other's involvement in these operations.
Alam joined ISIS Maharashtra terror module in 2022
In 2022, on the instructions of an ISIS handler, Alam moved from Delhi to Pune and joined the ISIS Maharashtra terror module, allegedly masterminded by operative Imran Khan, who was arrested when the module was busted in July this year.
Alam, however, managed to escape to New Delhi, where he was told he would meet an unidentified operative, who later turned out to be Farooqui. Reliable sources said that Farooqui arranged a rented house and provided all logistical and financial support to Alam and two others on the instructions of ISIS handlers. Additionally, he organised a recce for Alam and the other accused to facilitate the terror operation in Delhi-NCR.