Mumbai: Three days ahead of Republic Day, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad has arrested nine men, including a 17-year-old, for their alleged ISIS links.
An official said that the nine accused — a teen, medical representative, football coach, engineers, and a close aide of an underworld don — had formed a terror outfit, Ummat–e-Mohammadiya.
The arrests were made on Wednesday from Mumbra, Thane and Aurangabad districts.
Mohseen Khan, the prime accused in the case, is the one who allegedly headed the outfit and was said to be connected to the propaganda of ISIS since July 2018. He had recently travelled to Aurangabad to meet other suspects for the same.
Other accused, Salman Khan and Taqui Khan, are brothers of Mohseen. Before joining the alleged terror group, Salman used to give football coaching in Mumbra.
The fourth arrested was identified as Mohammad Mazhar Shaikh, who worked as a computer engineer in a private company in Bhiwandi. He was detained by ATS on Monday evening, while he boarded a bus to Aurangabad to meet the other members.
On the other hand, the 17-year-old accused is a student of electronics and cyber science.
Purportedly, civil engineer Fahad Shah, medical representative Jamman Khuteupad and one Mazhar Shaikh were influenced by Mohseen to be a part of the group. Sarfaraz Ahmed, another accused, a resident of Aurangabad, is the brother-in-law of Mohseen.
ATS officer suspects that the large quantities of chemicals seized from the accused were to be used for a possible chemical attack on a huge public gathering. They are also investigating if the arrested had any connection with an audio tape released by the ISIS in which it threatened to target the Kumbh Mela by poisoning River Ganga.
The ATS has seized various chemicals and acids from the accused including glycerine, urea, acetone powder, bottles with labels of hydrogen peroxide and have been sent to forensic lab.
Mohan Dahikar, DCP Maharashtra ATS, said, "We received information about the suspects having links with ISIS so we mounted watch on them. Based on the information gathered, raids were conducted in Aurangabad and Mumbra. We have seized several chemicals and have sent it for forensic tests."
Advocate for the accused, Khijar Patel denied the allegations of the ATS, he said, "We told the court that the chemicals seized from the accused are just rat poison and thinner. These things are available in every house. The men are innocent."
Twenty-four mobile phones, six pen drives, six laptops, 12 hard disks, six memory cards, 24 CDs, DVDs and SIM cards and knives were also seized from the accused. Videos of several ISIS leaders, including Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, have been recovered from them. These videos were used by Mohseen to radicalise members, the official said.
All suspects have been booked under IPC, 19, 20, 38, 39 Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and 135 BP Act. They have been remanded to police custody till February 5.