Danish Riyaz is a 29 year old from Bariyatu village in Ranchi, Jharkhand. Allegedly a member of the terror outfit Indian Mujahideen, Danish is reportedly also a prominent 'most wanted' operative on the Intelligence Bureau's radar. He is said to have attended a SIMI training camp in Waghmon in Kerala along with other operatives in December 2007. And now Danish is accused number 66 in the 2008 serial bombings of Gujarat.
His role: He is alleged to have provided logistical and financial help to those accused of triggering serial blasts in Ahmedabad in July 2008.
Danish, who joined the Indian Mujahideen in 2007, has told investigating agencies that the IM is struggling for funds and finding it difficult to stay afloat. In his interrogation, Danish has revealed that with a large number of operatives lodged in various jails across the country and the leadership of Indian Mujahideen outside the country, it's becoming difficult for the remaining members to keep the group functional.
After executing the Ahmedabad and Delhi serial blasts, security agencies across the country came down heavily on the Indian Mujhaideen operatives. Over 70 Indian Mujahideen operatives have been arrested since the group first started operating in 2007. As many as 66 members of the IM are currently lodged in Gujarat's Sabarmati Jail.
Danish has told interrogators that these arrests have severely dented the group's operations and badly affected the group's recruitment and fund-raising drives. That in turn has reduced the Indian Mujahideen's capabilities to execute serial bombings. Danish revealed that in the recent past, the terror outfit had very little option but to regroup and reinvent its modus operandi.
After the multiple and simultaneous arrests across the country post the serial bombings, Danish feared for his life. He left his job in a software company in Hyderabad and sought refuge in his hometown in Ranchi. He had managed to find a job with a reputed software firm in Hyderabad during his SIMI training camp days in 2007. After he shifted to Ranchi in 2008, other Indian Mujahideen operatives on the run also reached Ranchi. He was soon joined by Abdul Subhan Qureshi alias Tauqeer, Mujeeb Sheikh and others.
The Maharashtra and Gujarat police had launched a massive manhunt for Tauqeer. With Danish's help, Tauqeer started working as a teacher in a small local school in Jharkhand. Simultaneously Tauqeer and Danish started reviving operations from the underground.
Investigators claim that Danish helped Tauqeer to escape the country via the well exploited Nepal border route. Danish informs his interrogators that he even accompanied Tauqeer to the border sometime between November-December 2008.
But before escaping the country, Tauqeer deputed Danish Riyaz to establish Jharkhand as the base and revive the recruitment and fund-raising drives. Danish got his friend Manzar to help him in the process but the duo found it difficult to achieve any substantial success as the usual donors distanced themselves from the group and its activities. Recruitment was becoming a challenge as the group was unable to offer any incentives. According to Jharkhand police spokesperson Inspector General S M Pradhan, "Danish had managed to recruit 20-25 youths. They never executed any terrorist activity here (in Jharkhand). But they have their families here."
Under pressure the group had to adopt new modus operandi. They started plotting new operations from planning the release of the arrested mujahids, to kidnapping for ransom to bank robberies. They then decided to shift their focus from serial bombings to smaller individual operations like that of the 2010 attack on the Jama Masjid. The few members of the terrorist outfit started working as small-time criminals.
All along Danish was in regular contact with Dr Faizal alias Faib from Madhya Pradesh and Mujeeb Sheikh from Ahmedabad. Both these operatives along with eight others were recently arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police. Three of the arrested 10 were also wanted by the Gujarat police in connection with the July 2008 serial bombings. Following their arrests, a team of the Ahmedabad crime branch visited Madhya Pradesh to interrogate Mujeeb Sheikh from Ahmedabad, Dr Faizal alias Faib from Khajarana in Indore, and Mehboob Mallik alias Guddu from Khandwa.
It was the questioning of Dr Faizal and Mujeeb Sheikh that led the Ahmedabad crime branch to Danish Riyaz. Mujeeb Sheikh informed the Ahmedabad crime branch team that Danish was a qualified software engineer and was operating 10 emails at a time -- he had an email id registered with major service providers including rediffmail, gmail, hotmail, and yahoo. A lot of his important communication also was being discussed on mujeeb's email id.
After the Ahmedabad police received a tip-off on Danish, a team from the crime branch rushed to Hyderabad but couldn't locate him there. They then received information that he had left for Vadodara. Accordingly a trap was laid and Danish was arrested onboard Secunderabad-Rajkot Express at the Vadodara railway station.
While Danish was not in Gujarat during the serial blasts, investigators claim that he played a pivotal role in providing logistical and financial help. Danish has revealed details on how he provided shelter to Abul Subhan Qureshi alias Tauqeer, Mujhib Sheikh and Mohammed Ismail alias Abdul Razik, and other accused and also helped them financially.
After the serial blasts Tauqeer and his other associates were provided shelter by Danish -- first in Madhya Pradesh, then in Khandwa and in Shivani is Ranchi.
Ahmedabad Police Commissioner Sudhir Sinha, told rediff.com, "This particular visit of Danish to Gujarat does not appear to have any criminal intentions. But he was an active member during the time of conspiracy, preparations and in several other ways. He had also attended a training camp. So in a sense his is a crucial arrest."
Image: Television grab of Danish Riyaz