New Delhi: Al Qaeda terrorist Mohammad Ibrahim Zubair, who was deported to India from the United States Wednesday, is neither involved in any terror cases in India nor is he on the radar of Indian intelligence agencies, but all agencies are keen to interrogate him.
This is because he is a “key link to understand the network of Al Awlaki and Abu Musaab Al Souri — two fundamental characters of al Qaeda”, according to a source in the intelligence agencies.
Zubair, 40, an engineer who lived in Toledo, Ohio, worked as a financier for Awlaki.
According to the US, Awlaki waged violence against the state and was involved in attempted terrorist attacks against civilians, and was killed in a drone strike by US authorities in Yemen in September 2011. Souri is in jail in the US.
Intelligence agencies, including the National Investigation Agency, Intelligence Bureau and Research and Analysis Wing, see Zubair as a key link to understanding the al Qaeda’s network in India’s context.
“It is true that Zubair’s relevance to Indian intelligence agencies is not direct or immediate but (he is) crucial in understanding al Qaeda’s network, since he has been associated with two key people in the terror outfit,” the source said.
“Although his name has not cropped up in interrogation of any terrorist, he can provide information on al Qaeda’s assets in India, the route and method used by the outfit to pump in money for terror-related activities, how the outfit carries out recruitment,” the source added.
Tested negative for Covid
Given Zubair is not involved in any case here, India did not send a request to US agencies to extradite him. Nevertheless, he was deported on completion of his 60-month jail sentence.
“He was deported because he is (of) Indian origin and his family lives in Hyderabad. Since he completed his sentence in the US and his citizenship must have been cancelled, he was sent back to where his family was,” the source said.
He was brought to Amritsar on a special flight along with 167 other Indians stranded abroad. He was quarantined in Amritsar and tested for Covid-19. His test results came back negative Saturday morning.
“He is negative, so now he can be questioned. It will now become clear on why he was sent to India. Whether he chose to come back to his family, or if he has an Indian passport. We did not question him until now, nor did we ask if he has a dual citizenship or not, because he was to get tested for Covid-19,” the source said, adding that all agencies will take turns to interrogate him.
“While Zubair was born in Sharjah, he lived in the US and had a permanent residency there. His family roots, however, are in Hyderabad, Telangana, where he also owns properties,” an officer from the security establishment said.
Agencies interested in Zubair’s brother too
According to the source, agencies will question Zubair about his brother as well, Farooq Mohammad, who, currently in a US jail, had travelled with two other people to Yemen in 2009 to meet Awlaki. Details about his operations will serve as “crucial information” for the agencies.
According to a US court document, Zubair worked closely with Farooq and had facilitated money transfers for Awlaki.
Farooq had travelled to Yemen and gave approximately $22,000 to Awlaki’s associate, the court document said.
“Zubair must be aware of the operations of his brother, who all he met, the routes through which money reached Awalaki. Though Farooq was unable to meet Awalaki, he still met his associate,” the source added.