Mumbai: The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad formally arrested nine youths on Wednesday “for planning a chemical attack at a forthcoming public event.’’ The ongoing Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj could have been one of their targets, it is suspected. The police have seized chemicals from the residential premises of the accused.
An ATS official said preliminary investigation had revealed the arrested youths had planned to mix poisonous chemicals with food and water at an upcoming public event. The Maharashtra ATS had formed 12 teams and conducted search operations at eight locations in Aurangabad and Mumbra, following which the nine suspects were detained on Tuesday and later arrested on Wednesday.
The ATS has seized from the youth a few bottles labelled ‘hydrogen peroxide’, chemicals in powder form, knives and other gadgets. All the seized materials have been sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory at Kalina for chemical analysis. All of them have been booked under relevant sections of the Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act (UAPA) Act. One of the arrested accused is the son of D-gang sharpshooter Rashid Malbari, the police said.
The arrested accused had named their group, ‘Ummat-e- Muhammadiya’, which means the followers of Prophet Muhammad. The accused arrested from Mumbra have been identified as Mazhar Shaikh, Mohsin Khan, Salman Khan and Fahad Shaikh, while those arrested from Aurangabad have been identified as Mohsin Sirajullah Khan, Mohammad Takiullah Siraj Khan, Qazi Sarfaraj, Mohammad Mushahedul Islam and a 17-year-old.
Except for the teenager, all other accused were in the 22-26 age group. An ATS officer said, “We were keeping a close watch on a group of youths inspired by the ISIS. They were reportedly planning attacks at various public gatherings. However, before the gang could carry out any terror activity, the Maharashtra ATS arrested them.
The gang was collecting explosive material to carry out terror acts. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had earlier arrested a few people during their search operation at 16 places in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.” The ATS is now looking up the cyber history of all the arrested accused to ascertain links with their ISIS handler who was abroad. Meanwhile, the accused were produced in a local magistrate court in Aurangabad on Wednesday.