All 10 men arrested for allegedly being part of an ISIS-inspired group planning suicide attacks on VIPs and vital installations, had their specific functions and tasks, officials of the National Investigation Agency said today after initial rounds of questioning. The men were produced at a court in Delhi on Thursday and NIA has been granted their custody for 12 days.
The men were arrested yesterday after extensive searches across 17 locations in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. A country-made rocker launcher, 100-odd alarm clocks, pistols and laptops have been found during the searches, the NIA had said.
The accused - five from Delhi, the rest from Uttar Pradesh - were led by Mohammad Hafiz Sohail. A cleric from Amroha in Uttar Pradesh, he had settled in Delhi's Jafarabad.
Investigations so far reveal that Mohammad Sohail was monitoring the team members, who were procuring arms, explosives and other accessories to prepare IEDs and pipe bombs. "Each of them was assigned a specific task by Sohail," an officer involved in the questioning told NDTV.
Officials of the agency, who recovered 100 cellphones and 135 sim cards, said they were hoping to retrieve a large part of data shared between the accused, who communicated with each other through encrypted services like WhatsApp and Telegram.
The men under Mohammad Sohail's command were a close-knit group, aged under 30 years, and from middle-income families. NIA officers claim the group was radicalized online, but Mohammad Sohail was in touch with a foreign handler.
According to the officer, 24-year-old Anas Yunus, a civil engineering student at a Noida-based private university, was instrumental in procuring electrical items, alarm clocks and batteries needed for bomb-making.
Rashid Zafar Raq, 23, runs a garments business and 28-year-old Saeed from Amroha has a welding shop. "These two brothers were instrumental in building the rocket launcher," the officer said.
Searches at their hideouts had led to the discovery of a country-made rocket launcher and implements for bomb-making - chemicals and more than 100 alarm clocks, which can be used as timers in remote-controlled explosive devices. Twelve pistols and 150 rounds of ammunition were also found.
Officials said the group accessed their information on weapons and explosives online through YouTube.
"Two more brothers were part of this module -- Zubair, a third-year undergraduate student at a Delhi university, and his brother, 22-year-old Zaid Malik. They were part of the terror conspiracy and instrumental in procuring batteries, connectors, SIM cards on fake documents and mobilising funds for buying material to make bombs," the officer said.
Saqib Iftekar, 26, was from Hapur in Uttar Pradesh and worked as an Imam at the Jama Masjid in Baksar. He and Mohammed Azam, 35, who runs a medical shop in Delhi's Seelampur and Shahdara, helped with weapons procurement.
Mohammed, an autorickshaw driver, helped in arranging hideouts, where they kept the raw material for the explosive devices.