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EXCLUSIVE | Mumbai-born Man, Part of Pak-backed Terror Module, Recced Ganpati Visarjan Hotspot Chowpatty

Jaan Mohammad Shaikh (left), Osama (center) and Mohd Amir Javed (right) have been arrested by a joint team of Delhi Police and UP ATS. (Image: News18)

Jaan Mohammad Shaikh (left), Osama (center) and Mohd Amir Javed (right) have been arrested by a joint team of Delhi Police and UP ATS. (Image: News18)

Jaan Mohammad Sheikh (47) was an experienced driver as he had worked with an online shopping portal, and knew all the routes.

Jaan Mohammad Sheikh (47), who was arrested a day ago after Delhi Police Special Cell busted a Pakistan-organised module, was born and brought up in a chawl in Mumbai’s Sion, and worked as a driver for many years, said Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) sources on Wednesday.

Sources told CNN News18 that Sheikh had recced Girgaum Chowpatty in South Mumbai — known for Marine Drive and is an important spot during Ganpathi visarjan — multiple times and had also inspected railway stations in suburban Mumbai.

“Festival period was definitely on their target, and he being an experienced driver, knew all the routes," a senior ATS officer told CNN News18, adding that plan was to target maximum casualties, especially families.

Sources in the Mumbai Crime Branch said that Sheikh’s wife, who was interrogated by their team, told that the 47-year-old was currently working as a courier boy with an online shopping portal.

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“He had informed his wife and his two daughters that he would be travelling to Uttar Pradesh along with his friends," the officer said, adding that Sheikh was “in a hurry" when he told them and since she questioned him, he showed her travelling tickets as proof.

The Mumbai police on Wednesday began quizzing the travel agent who booked the ticket for alleged accused. The Crime Branch has identified him as Azgar.

Azgar had booked a ticket for him on September 13 for travel from Mumbai Central to Delhi. The agent knows Sheikh and lives in the same area. He has been taken to Dharavi police station, an official said. Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil has been briefed by ATS officers on the findings.

Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said that arrest of a terror accused from a city such as Mumbai should ring alarm bells. DCP Pranay Ashok on Wednesday took stock of the situation, beginning from Kurla to Dharavi area after Sheikh’s arrest.

According to sources present in the meeting with home minister, Dilip Walse Patil has told both the ATS and Mumbai Police to intensify their surveillance regarding sleeper cells of terrorists.

The Delhi Police Special Cell on Wednesday got police custody of four terror suspects, a day after a Pakistan-organised module was busted. An official said that they have got custody of Sheikh alias ‘Sameer’, Osama (22), Moolchand (47) and Mohd Abu Bakar (23). Zeeshan Qamar (28) and Mohd Amir Javed (31), who are presently in Lucknow, will be produced by Wednesday afternoon to decide on their custody, the official added.

In close coordination with the UP Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) team, the police apprehended Qamar from Allahabad, Javed from Lucknow and Moolchand from Rae Bareli. The terrorists, including two Pak-ISI trained, were allegedly planning several blasts across the country, including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, during the upcoming festivals of Ganesh Chaturthi, Navratri and Ramleela, officials said.

Police said that Pakistan-based Anees Ibrahim, who is brother of Dawood Ibrahim, was connected with the underworld operatives to execute the terror plan.

Among the arrested, Osama and Qamar are Pakistan-trained terror operatives working under the instructions of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). They were tasked to conduct the reconnaissance of different suitable locations in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh for placing IEDs, police said.

Explosives and firearms were recovered from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh in a multi-state operation, he added. Police said that the arrested men were tasked separately to execute different aspects of the terror plan.

The underworld operative Sameer, a close contact of Anees Ibrahim, was tasked by a Pak-based person connected with the underworld operatives hiding in Pakistan to ensure smooth delivery of improvised explosive devices (IED), sophisticated weapons and grenades to different entities in India. “Anees was acting on the behest of Pak-ISI and the underworld component was entrusted with two tasks, including transportation of arms and explosives and terror-funding, through hawala channels," said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Pramod Singh Kushwah.

Interrogation revealed that Osama had left for Muscat on April 22 by Salaam Air flight from Lucknow and after reaching there, he met Qamar, who had also come from India to join the training, said the senior police officer. From Muscat, the duo was then taken via sea route to Jioni town near Gwadar port in Pakistan, from where they were taken to a farmhouse in Thatta in Pakistan, he said.

(With inputs from Anvit Srivastava in Delhi)

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first published:September 15, 2021, 10:31 IST