NIA says the 8 men apprehended from Hyderabad had ‘girlfriends’ across the world and used their accounts communicate with each other.
New Delhi: The eight men apprehended from Hyderabad by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) over suspicions of working for the Islamic State were reportedly in touch with each other through the Telegram accounts of their alleged girlfriends from different parts of the world, ThePrint has learnt.
They did this to ensure they were not traced by agencies, sources said.
While one of them reportedly has a ‘girlfriend’ in Mauritius, the others have their ‘girlfriends’ based out of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Thailand, sources said.
The men had reportedly told their ‘girlfriends’ that they needed their respective Telegram accounts for “secure communication” with their families in India. Telegram is a messaging app.
According to sources, the men kept in touch and planned meetings on Telegram but restricted their chats to just that. They also made sure to delete proof of all their conversations including chats, messages and call logs.
“On scanning their systems, we found that they had deleted all information, including the encrypted chats and call logs. We have now given the system to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) lab in Hyderabad for analysis and have asked them to create a mirror image of the deleted content if possible,” an officer said.
“They were also careful enough to not plan anything over the phone. They always met and decided their next course of action,” he said.
Chemicals, thermometers, syringes
The investigation has revealed that the men had allegedly procured some chemicals, thermometers and syringes, which the NIA thinks could have been used to build explosives.
Of the eight men, the NIA Sunday formally arrested two — Abdullah Basith, 24, from Hafeezbaba Nagar in Hyderabad, who was also reportedly arrested twice before (in 2014 from Malda and 2015 from Nagpur) while trying to flee to Syria, and his associate Mohammed Abdul Qhadeer,19, from Chandrayangutta.
The six others are still being questioned.
The NIA had raided seven locations in Hyderabad and seized the men’s phones and laptops that allegedly revealed that they were possibly recruiting more members to plan terror activities across the country.
“It appears that they were planning something. However, it is too early to say anything. The matter is under investigation,” Inspector General, NIA, Alok Mittal said.
Basith’s travel plans
The investigation in the case has revealed that Basith’s wife had confided in her woman friend and told her that she would leave for Khorasan in Afghanistan for Hejira (pilgrimage).
“This shows that Basith was again trying to leave the country for Syria. He had also confided in two of his family members that he may be leaving soon,” a source said.
According to NIA, Basith had tried to reach Syria through Bangladesh in 2014, with a group of four others but was apprehended at Malda in West Bengal while he was trying to cross the border. He was reportedly counselled by police and handed over to his parents.
In 2015, he allegedly made another attempt to leave the country along with his cousin Syed Hussaini and friend Maaz Hassan Farooqui. He was, however, apprehended at Nagpur airport trying to leave for Srinagar.
According to sources, Basith planned to reach Srinagar to meet Asiya Andrabi, leader of the banned all-woman Kashmiri outfit Dukhtaraan-e-Millat (DeM), and then escape to Afghanistan through Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (PoK).
Sources also revealed that Basith’s uncle was Syed Salahuddin, the former president of Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), who died in a car accident in October 2014, following which Andrabi had flown to Hyderabad to pay her respects.
According to officials, Basith is also suspected to have been in touch with key Islamic State recruiter Adnan Hassan Damudi, who had been deported from Dubai in 2016.