The National Investigation Agency on Wednesday busted a suspected Islamic State-inspired terror group and arrested 10 suspects, who it said were planning suicide attacks and serial blasts targeting politicians and government installations in Delhi and other parts of north India.
A locally-made rocket launcher, material for suicide vests and 112 alarm clocks to be used as timers were recovered from the searches, said NIA Inspector General Alok Mittal.
"They were planning to make not one but a large number of bombs which is evident from 112 alarm clocks recovered by us," he said.
The searches were carried out in coordination with Special cell of Delhi Police and Anti-Terrorism Squad of Uttar Pradesh Police at six places in Jafrabad, Seelampur in Delhi, and 11 places in Uttar Pradesh - six in Amroha, two in Lucknow, two in Hapur and two in Meerut, he said.
The searches and the arrests, including of a 'mufti' from Amroha, come a month before Republic Day celebrations on January 26 when security is heightened across India, particularly in the national capital.
"The members were in an advanced stage of preparation. They were just waiting for the successful assembly of bombs and wanted to hit multiple locations using remote controlled IEDs and pipe bombs and carry out Fidayeen attacks using suicide vests when needed," Mittal said.
The probe agency rounded up 16 persons of the group 'Harkat ul Harb e Islam', which loosely translates into war for the cause of Islam, he said.
WATCH: NIA busts ISIS module, 10 held in UP and Delhi
Of the 16 detained, 10 were arrested -- five from Amroha and five from five from Seelampur and Jafrabad localities in north-east Delhi -- by the NIA, while six are being interrogated. More arrests are likely, Mittal said.
The 'highly-radicalised module' of youths in the age group of 20-35 years is completely self-funded and no criminal antecedent of its members had surfaced so far, he said.
Those arrested include the alleged mastermind, 29-year-old Mohammed Suhail, a 'mufti', or a Muslim legal expert empowered to give rulings on religious matters, from Amroha in western Uttar Pradesh, an engineering student in a private university in Noida and a third year graduation student in humanities in a university in Delhi as well as two welders, he said.
"It was ascertained that Mufti Mohammed Suhail alias Hazrath and his associates have mobilised funds and have procured weapons, ammunition and explosive material to prepare IED's and bombs and they plan to carry out explosions and fidayeen attacks at places of importance in and around Delhi and also target crowded places," he said.
He added that the agency found a video where Suhail is demonstrating the method to complete a bomb circuit.
The agency recovered 25 kg of explosive material -- Potassium Nitrate, Ammonium Nitrate, Sulphur etc, he said.
In addition, 12 country-made pistols, 150 rounds of live ammunition, a country-made rocket launcher, 112 alarm clocks, phone circuits, batteries and 51 pipes to be used as bombs were also recovered.
The group had also purchased remote control cars and wireless doorbells to use their circuits in assembling remote controlled improvised explosive devices.
The NIA also recovered steel containers, electric wires, 91 mobile phones, 134 SIM cards, 3 laptops, knife, sword, ISIS-related literature during the searches, he said.
Two brothers -- Raees and Saeed -- had assembled the rocket launcher and some other weapons in their welding shop, he alleged.
Mittal said the suspects had done a reconnaissance of vital government installations and planned to target political personalities and other important persons.
All arrested youth are moderately educated barring two -- an engineering student and a BA third year student -- and are from middle income families.
The agency is also investigating if Suhail or any other member had taken oath of allegiance with the West Asia-based ISIS and whether anyone had visited the area occupied by the terror outfit.
The officials said there was no trail of foreign funding but about Rs 7.5 lakh in cash have been recovered during the searches.
Among the arrested are two brothers -- Zaid, 20, and Zubair, 22 -- who were instrumental in arranging batteries, connectors, SIM cards on fake documents and funds for buying bomb-making material, the NIA has alleged.
The two had even stolen gold from their family which was in the range of about Rs 5-7 lakh and sold it in the market to arrange for funds, they said.
According to investigations, the module was founded about 3-4 months ago by Suhail who brought all its members together and indoctrinated them.
The group remained in touch through data-based messaging applications WhatsApp and Telegram to avoid scrutiny of agencies.
Seeing their alarming pace of progress, the central agencies, which had kept the group on surveillance, decided to bust it on Wednesday.
The NIA had registered a case on December 20 against Suhail and other members.
The agency believes the module has foreign-based handler(s) but their identity and location is still being probed.
The officials refused to comment on media reports citing inputs from other agencies involved in the operation that RSS headquarters and Delhi Police headquarters were also on the hit list.
"They (other agencies) can say whatever they feel like. But being the investigating agency of this case...we cannot make any such claim unless we have some corroborative material to support it," a senior NIA officer said requesting anonymity.