Zakir Ustaad, suspected to be a resident of JC Nagar, planned to attack politicians and journalists, in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra as well, reports Vicky Nanjappa
The probe into the recently busted Karnataka terror plot to assassinate journalists and politicians has gotten murkier with police officials now saying that they are on the look out for the mastermind in the case.
Though the police had earlier said that 22-year-old Mohammed Akram, who was arrested from Nanded, was the mastermind of the terror plot, they now suspect that the 16 people held with alleged links to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami reported to a 'boss' based in Bengaluru.
Police sources say that the mastermind Zakir Ustaad is a resident of JC Nagar, Bengaluru. He indoctrinated the youths to carry out the operation, which he planned along with Akram, say police sources.
During questioning, the arrested youths revealed that Zakir approached Akram, a friend of Shahid Bilal, a Hyderabad resident whose name was linked to many terror attacks in south India from 2004-2007. They planned to recruit like-minded youths from various states and carry out an operation targeting Hindu leaders and anti-Muslim journalists.
Ustaad, who is said to be a point man for the HuJI in Karnataka, is said have planned similar attacks in Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabad and Maharashtra. He coordinated with a handler in Saudi Arabia who helped with funds and other support for the plot. The local underworld supplied arms and money for this operation, say insiders.
Karnataka was the first on the terror hitlist where the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power. A selected group of journalists and an MLA were the prime targets.
Assassination of a politician or killing of a journalist would lead to an outrage and this would then help provoke riots thought the plotters. In the aftermath of the riots, it would be easier to recruit more youths for similar operations.
The HuJI was also looking at roping in more recruits from south India. But they wanted to ensure that its operatives do not come under the scanner while they executed the terror plot.
In Hyderabad, the module banked on the anti-Hindu sentiment that has been triggered following investigation in the Mecca Masjid blasts. And in Uttar Pradesh, they recruited youths who were agitated by incidents in Azamgarh.
It is believed that there have been atrocities against Muslims under the guise of investigation and the best way to seek 'revenge' was to target leaders.
Four arrests among the 16 held were from Nanded. One of the first incidents involving Hindu terror group was busted in Nanded. Investigators say that the Hindu organisation planned to carry out a blast in such a way that Muslim groups would come under the scanner. Since then there has been animosity between the two communities and the youths who wanted to seek revenge against Hindus were made part of the Karnataka module.
The police say that arresting Ustaad would help the investigation. Being the point man in the operation he could give a more detailed explanation to the international link to the operation, police sources say.