Delhi Police on Monday arrested one of National Investigation Agency's (NIA) most wanted terrorists Mohammad Shahnawaz Alam and his two associates who were part of an Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)-sponsored module 'disguised' as an Islamic State (IS) module and seized incriminating material, including those suspected to be used in an improvised explosive device (IED) fabrication, officials said.
The accused are identified as Mohammad Shahnawaz Alam alias Abdullah alias Mohammad Ibrahim alias Prince (31), Mohammad Rizwan Ashraf (28) and Mohammad Arshad Warsi (29). All three are engineering graduates and were in touch with their Pakistan-based handlers, they said.
Shahnawaz was nabbed in Jaitpur in Delhi, while Mohammad Rizwan Ashraf and Mohammad Arshad Warsi were arrested in Lucknow and Moradabad, in Uttar Pradesh, respectively, they said, adding the three have been remanded in police custody for a week.
"The Pakistan-ISI sponsored module disguised as ISIS module was at the advanced stage of planning terror strikes in Delhi," the police said.
According to the police, a module was identified with footprints in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.
During the probe, two alleged ISIS operatives, namely Imran Khan and Yunus Saaki, were arrested by Pune police in July while they were stealing a motorcycle, but Shahnawaz escaped.
Imran and Yunus were allegedly involved in the Chittod blast and carried a reward of Rs 5 lakh.
The case was transferred to NIA which declared a reward of Rs three lakh on Shahnawaz's arrest, police said.
Later, a tip-off was received that Shahnawaz was moving along with one Rizwan Ali, a resident of Delhi, and they along with other associates have been planning to carry out terrorist activities in Delhi and adjoining areas, Special Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) HGS Dhaliwal told reporters.
It has also been learnt that they were in an advanced stage of preparations and have procured arms, ammunition and explosives for this purpose and have set up base in Delhi, police said.
On Sunday, multiple raids were carried out in Delhi, UP and Uttarakhand with the assistance of the central intelligence agency and state police concerned.
Warsi was arrested and he disclosed that Shahnawaz was known to him and he was an accomplice in the conspiracy to carry out terrorist activities in Delhi and adjoining areas, Dhaliwal said.
He also said that Shahnawaz has procured arms, ammunition and explosives and taken a rented room in Delhi in furtherance of their criminal conspiracy, the police alleged.
Ashraf was also arrested and he disclosed that he was a member of ISIS and was in communication with his foreign-based handler and the remaining members of this module.
He further said that Shahnawaz and Rizwan took a pledge ('Baith') of ISIS through him, the police claimed.
At the instance of Warsi, Shahnawaz was arrested from a rented accommodation after a brief scuffle. A pistol and seven live cartridges were recovered. Components used in making IEDs were also recovered, Dhaliwal said.
The material included plastic canes containing chemicals, glass bottles containing acid, small steel balls, iron pipes, an electronic weighing machine, raw materials like powder of different colours, a remote key, LED lights, two batteries of nine volt, connectors, a timer watch and maps, police said.
Police also recovered different literature for making bombs suspected to have been sent by Pakistan-based handlers. They were also in contact with several people through the internet, police said.
The literature regarding how to procure chemicals and assemble them so that maximum casualty can take place was also recovered from his place, police said.
The police said its Special Cell has continuously been keeping surveillance through all possible means on the activities of suspect operatives of ISIS and their sympathisers with special focus on Delhi centric suspects.
"Credible inputs revealed that in order to carry out terror activities in India, while simultaneously trying to hide its role and to circumvent scrutiny by international agencies, Pakistan's ISI has created a facade of an India focused ISIS by using Pakistan based and protected terrorists who are fugitive from India, namely Farahtullah Gauri and his son-in-law Shahid Faisal," a police statement said.
Gauri and Faisal are wanted in the Akshardham Temple attack case and are presently hiding in Pakistan while working for its spy agency ISI.
"ISI has been learnt to have emphasised on collecting funds through crime (Maal-e-Ghanimat) for this network so that this could be projected as a 'home grown' and 'self radicalised network'.
"Shahnawaz did his B.Tech in mining engineering and has elaborate knowledge about the blasting process. He used to get PDFs from his handlers about making bombs and tried a lot of things. They have been radicalised for the past several years and used to report their handlers," officials said.
Their broad plan was to detonate the blasts to cause maximum casualties and target important dignitaries, police said, adding that they have the funding trails and are probing it also.
They tested several explosives in forest areas. Their basic target was that whatever money they wanted to collect for further activities, they had to collect it by committing crimes in New Delhi.
They used to call it 'Maal-e-Ghanimat', the police said.