Busted ISIS cell wanted to plant beef at Bhagyalakshmi temple, spark riots during Ramzan

Busted IS cell wanted to plant beef at Bhagyalakshmi temple, spark riots during Ramzan

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) early on Wednesday busted an Islamic State (IS) module in Hyderabad, detaining 11 youths who were allegedly plotting powerful bomb blasts to target VVIPs and crowded places in the city and intended to trigger communal riots by placing cow and buffalo meat at the Bhagyalakshmi temple at the base of the iconic Charminar.

The IS module was, according to the agency, procuring the meat to be placed at temples to spark riots during the ongoing holy month of Ramzan. The arrested youths, who held regular jobs and were in touch with IS handler and chief recruiter for India, Shafi Armar, had been under the NIA’s scanner for the past 4-5 months.

It was a telephonic conversation on the evening of June 25 that prompted agencies to swoop down on the suspects. In the conversation, mentioned by an NIA source to TOI, a suspect asked the person on the other line to “bring four pieces of cow meat and four pieces of buffalo meat that day and seven pieces of cow meat the next day”. The attacks were likely to be carried out in the next few days and the module’s funds were being routed through Dubai.

The busting of the ‘Hyderabad module’ is significant as it is the first big, well-armed and organised IS-inspired group in India. While the previous Roorkee module had arms, the potency of the IED material recovered was not as worrying. Similarly, the panIndia module, headed by Mumbai man Mudabbir Shaikh, was yet to source weapons and had not perfected bomb-making when it was busted in January.

Five youths — Mohammad Ibrahim Yazdani, head of the module, Mohammad Ilyas Yazdani, Abdullah Bin Ahmed Al Amoodi, Habeeb Mohammad and Mohammad Irfan — were arrested on Wednesday evening while six others are being questioned. Almost all suspects are in their 20s and 30s, graduates and hold jobs, including some who are computer engineers. They hail from well-to-do families.

The telephonic conversation about cow meat prompted the NIA to act. “This was the clincher for us to pick up the module. Our assessment is that the IS-inspired youths, who were in touch with a Syria-based handler identified as ‘Amir’ but suspected to be Shafi Armar alias Yousuf al Hindi, were planning to carry out bomb blasts to target VVIPs and crowded places like malls and shopping centres, including around Charminar, while also planting beef at nearby temples. A possible target was Bhagyalakshmi temple,” said an NIA officer.

The idea, the officer said, was to create mayhem and communal tension at the same time during Ramzan. “We suspect that the bomb blasts were planned over the next one-two days,” he said.