By Alok Singh, New Delhi, April 20 IANS | 7 months ago

Terror groups in India, like the banned Indian Mujahideen, are relying more on indigenously made weapons and ammunition, from underground "arms factories", rather than smuggling them in from abroad.

Top Indian Mujahideen operatives Tehsin Akhtar and Waqas, who were arrested last month along with three other aides from the India-Nepal border, have revealed to Delhi Police that they relied on local markets to procure their arms and ammunition, an official said.

Special Commissioner of Police S.N. Srivastava said that the IM has begun to rely on what is called in local parlance as 'country-made weapons' to keep off the radar of security agencies.

"Earlier, members of SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India), Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Kashmir-based terror groups used to procure arms and ammunition from overseas. But the IM has changed its strategy," Srivastava told IANS.

"The IM men are able to easily get country-made weapons from local criminals. This strategy also puts them at a low risk of arrest," said the officer.

Another officer said that Tehsin and Waqas were adept at putting together explosives for the terror group. The IM members were carrying 70 bombs, which they were planning to use to mar the Lok Sabha elections. The arrested IM operatives, all part of the Rajasthan module, told interrogators that they were taking the help of local criminals to purchase arms and explosives.

That the IM was beginning to rely on locally-made weapons first came to light in 2011 after the arrest of an IM terrorist from Delhi and the recovery of two sophisticated pistols from him. A year later, two IM operatives, Asad and Firoz, were arrested and found to be carrying two sophisticated country-made pistols, the sources added.

Police officers believe that strict vigilance of the security forces along the Indian border areas is another contributory factor. Earlier, AK-47s, hand grenades and other weapons were easily transferred to India due to porosity of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi border areas.

Local criminals procure the weapons from suppliers, who in turn get it from underground arms factories. They deliver the consignments to IM terrorists as per their demands, said an officer.

Delhi Police have spotted such underground factories mostly in Bihar, Jharkhand and some parts of western Uttar Pradesh.

"The supply of weapons to IM terrorists is a nexus between suppliers and local criminals," said a police officer.

Delhi Police officials also said that illegally made weapons sourced from these hidden factories used to be delivered to West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Mumbai and some parts of south India.

Munger in Bihar is gaining notoriety as a manufacturing hub of illegally made sophisticated arms.

The IM terror outfit first came to notice 10 years ago when it sent an e-mail after the 2007 serial bombings in judicial courts at Varanasi, Faizabad and Lucknow claiming responsibility for the blasts that killed 18 people. The IM is believed to be a byproduct of the banned SIMI, another indigenous terror grouping, and Pakistan-based terror groups like the LeT and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

Since the 2007 terror bombings, the IM started forming sleeper cells by motivating Indian Muslim youths for jihad.

The sleeper cells operate in different states and take orders from their overseas "commanders" for undertaking any work of bombings or terror attacks, another senior officer told IANS.

The Delhi Police Special Cell, a specialized unit to counter terrorism, has claimed to have busted many such IM modules, including the Uttar Pradesh, Bihar-Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh modules - and most recently the Rajasthan one.

In the past 13 years, the Special Cell has made a sizable haul of arms and weapons from terror groups. They included nine AK-56s, five AK-47s, 32 pistols, three revolvers, 1,503 live cartridges, 89 kg of RDX, 70 hand grenades, 558 detonators and 25 timers.

(Alok Singh can be contacted at alok.s@ians.in)

(Posted on 20-04-2014)

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