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Arrest in auto theft case puts Delhi Police on possible terror trail, team heads to Kashmir

Delhi Police team is set to carry out probe in Kashmir after they recovered images of suspected terrorists & attacks on the mobile phones of 2 men arrested in an auto theft case.

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New Delhi: Days after the Delhi Police arrested two men for automobile thefts, a team of officers from the national capital was scheduled to leave for Jammu and Kashmir late Tuesday evening to investigate possible terror links. This is because, according to the Delhi Police, one of the two arrested is from Kashmir, and during investigations, the police found images of drones and alleged terror-accused on their mobile phones.

The images allegedly raised suspicions that the arrested duo could have possible terror links, and investigations in Kashmir are expected to throw light both on this and the antecedents of the accused. The suspected evidence found on the accused’s mobile phones have also caused the police to be alert to possible terror threats in the national capital ahead of the country’s Independence Day celebrations on 15 August.

Shaukat Ahmed from Sopore, Baramulla, in Kashmir and Mohammed Zubair from Karaina, Uttar Pradesh, were arrested after police received intelligence about gangs of automobile thieves operating in the national capital.

Sources in Delhi Police told ThePrint that a team of the Anti-Auto Theft Squad had laid a trap for the syndicate that has allegedly stolen over a 100 cars. The arrests were made Saturday evening after police followed the gang’s trail for about three months.

According to the police, videos of blasts and killings, allegedly from terror attacks, were recovered from the seized mobile phones during preliminary investigations.

The police have, however, not shared any details about the incidents or identities of those whose images and videos were found in the accused’s mobile phones since the matter is still under investigation.

Meanwhile, sources said Ahmed and Zubair denied having any terror links and claimed that the photos and videos on their phones were received as forwards on WhatsApp.

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Just WhatsApp forwards?

Sources in Delhi Police told ThePrint that the two were interrogated by officers of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Crime Investigation Department (CID) Monday.

“A team of police officers are leaving for Jammu and Kashmir and a joint probe (with J&K Police) will be conducted in the case,” a senior Delhi Police officer told ThePrint.

“Shaukat Ahmed, who hails from Jammu & Kashmir, has travelled to Delhi six times since June. Photos of the surveillance drones, that are also used for photography, have been recovered from their phones. Moreover, photos and videos of terrorists and terror attacks have also been found. The IB is working to check the details of the militants in these visuals, seen dressed in green jackets,” he added.

According to sources, scars of unusual burn injuries on Ahmed’s hands have also caused the police to suspect that they were caused by explosives. A photo of a police man, allegedly killed by terrorists, has also been found on their phones.

During the interrogation, Shaukat denied having any terror links and told police that the burns on his hands were caused during cooking, sources told ThePrint. Both accused have also claimed that the photos and videos found on their phone were WhatsApp forwards and items downloaded from news websites.

“We are verifying all technical evidence. The Delhi Police team will now investigate the case from the ground, to explore all possible angles,” the source quoted above said.

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Probing terror trail ahead of I-Day

DCP (Central) Jasmeet Singh said that the police are probing details of where, and to whom, the cars stolen by the two were sold and also following the trail of monetary transactions.

According to the police, Zubair and another accused, Rinku, would steal the cars. Rinku is a resident of Ghaziabad, who has 22 cases of crimes such as thefts and extortion registered against him and is currently absconding.

The stolen cars were then driven to Kashmir by Ahmed, who would allegedly sell the vehicles there with the help of Waseem Sheikh (also an accused in the case), also a Sopore resident. Police said Sheikh’s involvement in the crime was revealed by Ahmed during interrogation.

A statement issued by the Delhi Police claimed that they have recovered two Baleno cars, one Swift Dzire, one Santro, one pistol with live cartridges, 100 duplicate number plates and 120 duplicate car keys during the investigation.

The police is meanwhile on alert against any possible terror threats in the national capital.

“Since the recovery of data from their mobile phones during primary investigation suggested a possible terror angle in the case, we have increased patrolling and surveillance in the capital region and all districts have been alerted ahead of I-Day,” said the senior officer quoted above.

He added: “We are trying to verify if the men had indirect links with terror outfits and were helping them with the stolen cars.”

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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