Two suspected Ansar operatives held in Lucknow, IED recovered: Uttar Pradesh ATS

The two were part of a terror module that was planning to carry out explosions in different parts of the state, including Lucknow, said officials. The police claimed the accused were planning to carry out suicide bombings in crowded places.

The Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) on Sunday arrested two suspected operatives of al Qaeda-linked Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind (AGH) here. The two were part of a terror module that was planning to carry out explosions in different parts of the state, including Lucknow, said officials. The police claimed the accused were planning to carry out suicide bombings in crowded places.

The two men arrested were identified as Lucknow residents Minhaz Ahmed (30) and Maseeruddin alias Mushir (50). While Minhaz is from Dubagga, Mushir is from the capital’s Mohibullapur locality, according to the police. The police claimed to have recovered illegal weapons, explosives and an IED fitted in a pressure cooker, among other things, from their residences. A bomb disposal squad was deployed to defuse the IED, the ATS added. The police said raids were being conducted to trace the two men’s associates, who are mostly from Lucknow and Kanpur.

Sources said Minhaz used to be a lab technician before opening a battery shop. Maseeruddin, whose son operates an e-rickshaw, used to do odd jobs.

The police said the two men were recruited by Umar Halmandi, who took the reins of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) after the death of his predecessor Asim Umar in a joint operation by American and Afghan forces in Afghanistan in 2019. Umar was from Sambhal district.

The police claimed they got information about al-Qaeda instructing Halmandi, who operates from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, to begin terror operations in India.

Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said the police got information that Halmandi was trying to recruit Indian youths for the job and had identified and recruited few people in Lucknow to radicalise and recruit them.

During the inquiry, the police came to know that Minhaz and Maseeruddin, and a person identified as Shakeel were in touch with the proscribed group. “We came to know these people, with the help of their associates, planned blasts in UP, especially in Lucknow, on the direction of Umar Halmandi. These persons planned to target crowded places, monuments and important places and were planning blasts,” said Kumar.

Minhaz and Maseeruddin were arrested based on the information. The police claimed the two confessed and claimed their associates managed to escape. The ATS team has sought the help of the local police to track the aides of the two suspected AGH operatives.

“We have yet to trace people who arranged weapons, pressure cooker and also fitted the IED,” said a police officer. Sources said the explosives recovered appear to be made of sodium salt.

ATS Inspector General GK Goswamy said the explosives would be sent to a laboratory for examination. He claimed the IED that was recovered was in a “ready condition” and had been fitted with a timer.

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