SIMI man could be the local link between IM, LeT
NAGPUR: In a development that could help connect the dots between terror attacks across the country, including the LeT-led November 26 siege of Mumbai, Maharashtra's anti-terrorist squad is questioning Amir Talha, a SIMI activist from Azamgarh, who was in close touch with the Indian Mujahideen that executed serial blasts in Delhi in September. Cops say they have evidence to connect Talha, who was employed with a Hyderabad IT firm, to earlier terror attacks in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Jaipur for which responsibility was claimed by the Indian Mujahideen.
If Talha is found to have connections with the Lashkar-e-Taiba, it will cement India's case about the outfit's links with IM as well as bring out for the first time the local connect of the 10 sea-borne terrorists who attacked Mumbai.
It was a quick, well-planned operation that helped ATS net Talha, son of an Azamgarh cleric and suspected activist of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India, on Saturday.
The 22-year-old had boarded the Patna-Secunderabad Express for Hyderabad when he was arrested on platform No 3 at Nagpur station where he had got off for a bite.
The ATS team boarded the train, which was running eight hours late, at Betul in Madhya Pradesh. First, the ATS spotted another man on berth no. 12 in AC-3 B-1 coach, the seat alloted to Talha. The sleuths then started scanning all coaches. Although Talha was being tailed from Varanasi, he had managed to hoodwink the ATS by moving to another coach.
"The compartments were cramped, with passengers sleeping in the aisles," said an officer who was a part of the operation.
"The ATS team finally spotted Talha in S-10. He was surrounded by 'friends'. We kept him under watch and nabbed him when he got off at Nagpur. Initially, he denied his identity," said a senior officer. Talha, who was produced before a Nagpur court, has been remanded in police custody until January 3. A .32mm pistol (inscribed ENGALA D982610) and five bullets were recovered from him. Cops said Talha had a VIP quota ticket which he had obtained with a recommendation from BSP MP from Shahbad, Iliyas Azmi.
Talha is the son of Amir Rashidi Madni and Rizwana Aamir. Rashidi, who heads an ulema council in Azamgarh, is also believed to have been held in connection with SIMI activities in the past. Talha's 16-year-old brother, too, is under police scanner for alleged links to terror outfits.
According to ATS, Talha was in contact with Mirza Shadab Baig, one of the two terrorists who escaped from the Batla house encounter in Delhi in September. Talha reportedly shared his rented room with Baig at Fahad Apartment in Zakir Nagar, Delhi.
Baig later shifted to Batla house where IM mastermind Atiq, alias Bashir, and Mohammed Sajid were killed in an encounter with Delhi Police. Atiq and Talha called each other just before the September Delhi blasts. Soon after Atiq was killed, Talha deleted the call details from his mobile phone.
Talha, whose deeper connections with the Indian Mujahideen are still being probed, worked with an IT major in Hyderabad, but mostly remained away from work for different reasons. After seeking leave for his "exams" from July 17 to 21 this year, Talha kept extending his leave during different festivals. Both Bangalore (July 25) and Ahmedabad (July 26) blasts had taken place when Talha was on leave. On October 31, Talha had approached an orthopaedic clinic in Azamgarh for a medical certificate as he planned to be away from work for 45 days.
Talha had a passport issued on March 4, 2008, from Delhi. The passport (no 97392112) was valid till March 3, 2018. ``The question is why did an Azamgarh resident get a passport issued from Delhi? How Talha managed to procure the passport and what documents did he furnish, too, remain to be seen,'' said an ATS officer.