Delhi police arrest suspected ISIS terrorist Shahnawaz; was among NIAs most wanted
Shahnawaz had escaped from the custody of the Pune police and was living in Delhi. | File photo

Delhi police arrest suspected ISIS terrorist Shahnawaz; was among NIA's most wanted

A foreign-based handler had put Shahnawaz in touch with Imran and Saki with instructions to execute a terror strike, probe revealed

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The Delhi police have arrested one of NIA’s most wanted terrorists, Shahnawaz alias Shafi Uzzama, who is alleged to have links with an ISIS module, officials said on Monday.

Shahnawaz had escaped from the custody of the Pune police and was living in Delhi, they said. He carried a reward of Rs 3 lakh. An engineer by profession, Shahnawaz was arrested on Sunday night from an area in southeast Delhi by the Delhi police’s Special Cell and is currently being interrogated, an official said.

Four to five people, connected to the module and detained in the matter, are also being interrogated. They are suspected to be sleeper cells of the terror outfit. Shahnawaz was found to have some chemical substance on him, which was seized, the official said. Police have also recovered other incriminating material suspected to be used for IED fabrication, he said.

Terror plot foiled

Sources said Shahnawaz originally hails from Delhi but had moved to Pune. Shahnawaz and two others - Mohammad Imran Mohammad Yunus Khan, 23, and Mohammad Yunus Mohammad Yakub Saki, 24, - were arrested by the Kothrud police in Pune on July 18 after they were found attempting to steal a two-wheeler. However, Shahnawaz jumped out of the police vehicle and managed to escape when the police were taking them to their residence at Kondhwa in Pune for a search.

Their interrogation revealed that Imran and Saki were from Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh and were allegedly involved in a terror case registered in Rajasthan after explosives were found in a car in March 2022. They also carried a bounty of ₹5 lakh each, a police officer said.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) took over the probe on July 22 and further probe revealed that Shahnawaz had kept some acid at Bopatghat near Kondhwa. The agency took the help of the Bomb Disposal and Detection Squad and seized the acid and several other chemicals that were used to make bombs.

The ATS also seized several other materials and found 500 GB of data in the laptops and mobile phones of the accused which contained links to YouTube videos on making bombs and Google images of various places.

According to the probe, a foreign-based handler had possibly put Shahnawaz in touch with Imran and Saki in February with instructions to execute a terror strike. After 10-15 days, Shahnawaz allegedly brought the man called Rizwan from Delhi to the module, sources said.

The agency also found out that the gang had visited places in Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara, and sent teams there to check as to what they had planned to do. After the ATS arrested two more accused - Aakif Ateeque Nachan and Zulfikar Ali Barodawala in Thane district - on August 8, the case was handed over to NIA.

NIA’s cash reward

The NIA had earlier announced a cash reward of ₹3 lakh each for information about Shahnawaz and three other terror suspects -- Rizwan Abdul Haji Ali, Abdulla Faiyaz Shaikh and Talha Liyakat Khan. The agency had also released the pictures of all four while stating that the identity of the informant would be kept confidential. It is learned that Shahnawaz, Abdulla and Rizwan were radicalised into joining the ISIS mission over the Telegram app.

It is alleged that they were linked to an ISIS module at Pune in Maharashtra. They wanted to orchestrate violence and spread terror in the country, NIA sources said. According to sources, Abdulla ran a diaper store in Pune that was used to assemble explosive devices. He may try to escape to Oman, NIA sources have said.

Belonging to Delhi, Rizwan Ali and his younger brother were arrested in 2018 for alleged ISIS links, but security agencies could not find evidence against them. He was let off after a deradicalisation programme.

He went to Pune after two years and told his family that he is running a computer business. He married and lived there with his wife. The couple returned to Delhi after Rizwan’s father started keeping unwell. He again left his home a couple of months back.

(With agency inputs)

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