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Two Bangladeshis held for ISI activities in UP

The Special Task Force in Uttar Pradesh has arrested two Bangladeshi nationals -- Mamu Nurasheed and Zafar Naim -- operating as Inter-Services Intelligence agents in the state for the last couple of years.

"We have got enough prima facie evidence confirming the involvement of these persons in ISI activities," state police chief R M Shukla said.

He added this was the "first major Bangladeshi connection to the ISI network unearthed in Uttar Pradesh".

The arrest follows External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha's recent outburst against alleged involvement of Bangladesh in the increasing Pakistani espionage network in India.

"Recovery of 11 passports issued to foreign nationals under fake Indian names and addresses by the Kolkata passport office, was a pointer to the larger conspiracy being hatched for defaming India before the rest of the world. These foreign nationals operating as ISI agents could indulge in terrorist activities outside India as well and on being caught their passports would confirm their identity as Indian, thereby causing much embarrassment to the country," he said.

"There was ample evidence to show that these persons were engaged in luring young unemployed people into doing specific assignments for the ISI," Rajeev Ranjan Verma, the STF senior superintendent of police who led the team in the crackdown on the two suspected ISI agents, said.

According to him, Nurasheed, who hailed from Chittagong [Bangladesh] had been living in Lucknow since 1992. "He had not only got his graduation degree from here, but had also got married in Lucknow following which he obtained an Indian passport from Lucknow and made frequent trips to Bangladesh against this passport."

The STF discovered the modus operandi that Rasheed and Zafar had adopted for recruiting their sub-agents. "In Sitapur, they invited some smart young men for interview under the pretext that they were to be recruited for the Central Bureau of Investigation or the Research and Analysis Wing. That was just another way to know the mind of the aspirants before they were ushered into the ISI network." Verma said.

No weapons or explosives were recovered from either of the two ISI agents and the amount of money recovered from them was also quite paltry - a total of Rs 4000.

Shukla explained: "Every ISI agent has a different role to perform; in this case, they were detailed to recruit youngsters and send them over for training, besides getting Indian passports issued in the name of Pakistani or Bangladeshi nationals who were imported against these documents."

Investigations are on to get deeper into the net, that according to the police chief has already spread across to over 34 of UP's 70 districts. "So far we have confirmed knowledge about ISI activities in 22 districts, but of late 12 more have been added to the list," Shukla said.

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow