The Delhi Police on Tuesday said it has foiled a major terror plan during the festival season with the arrest of a 40-year-old Pakistani terrorist who has Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) links and had been living in India for over 10 years under a fake identity.
IMAGE: Pakistani terror suspect Mohammad Ashraf. Photograph: ANI Photo
Mohammad Ashraf alias Ali Ahmed Noorie, a resident of Naroval in Pakistan’s Punjab province, was arrested from east Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar, officials said, adding he is also suspected to be involved in terror strikes in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India in the past.
The police said that preliminary interrogation revealed that Ashraf had been acting as head of a sleeper cell in India and was assigned to carry out terror strikes during the festival season at the behest of Pakistan’s ISI.
Based on his interrogation, raids were carried out in and around the Trans-Yamuna area and one AK-47 assault rifle, one hand grenade, two magazines of AK-47 along with 60 rounds, two sophisticated China-made pistols along with 50 rounds, and one Indian passport and other Indian IDs obtained on forged documents were recovered from his possession, the police claimed.
‘Ashraf came to India via Bangladesh and had been staying in the country for over a decade as Ali Ahmed Noorie.
‘On Monday, information was received that Ashraf was staying in the area of Laxmi Nagar. Thereafter, a team was deployed at Laxmi Nagar area and it apprehended Ashraf,’ Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Pramod Singh Kushwaha said.
The police said that with the arrest of Ashraf, a possible terror strike during the festival season has been averted.
The police got a tip-off around two months ago regarding an active sleeper cell, officials said.
They found that a Pakistani national has been directed to undertake terror attacks in India and was in an advanced stage of preparation for procuring arms and explosives.
It was also learnt that Ashraf has been an active part of a sleeper cell and has carried out many terror attacks and espionage activities in India in the last several years, police said.
He has managed to obtain Indian identities and had been living in Delhi while posing as a ‘maulana’ (religious preacher), they said.
A case under relevant provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosives Act and Arms Act has been registered in order to thoroughly investigate the matter and to prevent any terror attack, the police said.
Ashraf was recruited by the Pakistani spy agency ISI directly after he completed his Class X and was trained for six months, he said.
He had been staying in India using the fake identity of Ali Ahmed Noori, a resident of Shastri Park in Delhi, the DCP said.
In 2004, he got his training from an ISI handler code name ‘Nasir’ in Sialkot, Pakistan. Nasir motivated him to work as a sleeper cell for subversive activities for Pakistan in India, police said.
After completion of his training, Ashraf managed to enter India through the Siliguri border, West Bengal during the same year.
He stayed in Siliguri for a couple of months and later went to Ajmer and befriended a cleric at a local mosque in Ajmer, police said.
In 2006, he accompanied the cleric to Delhi. He came to a factory of a relative of the cleric in the walled city area and started Tilawat (daily wages prayer job) at factories in that locality, they said.
He met other relatives of the cleric and managed to win over their trust and started receiving money from his ISI handler via money transfer through their IDs, police said.
During his stay in India, he was in regular touch with his handler Nasir through different secure communication channels of social media.
Recently, he was tasked by his Pakistani handler to carry out terror strikes during the festival season and the recovered arms and ammunition were arranged by the Pakistani handler to carry out the same, Kushwaha said.
Officials said Ashraf was supposed to get information from Nasir about the planned terror attack. He has changed five-six locations in over a decade, they said.
He never stayed at any specific location for long and to acquire documents, he also got married to a woman in Vaishali, Ghaziabad for a couple of months and later left his wife. He lived in India in various places, including Delhi, Ajmer, Ghaziabad, Jammu and Udhampur, they said.
He established his Indian identity from a village in Bihar after his marriage.
Later, he made ID cards on other addresses and on the basis of those documents, he got his passport made in 2014.
He had visited Saudi Arabia and Thailand, police said, adding that the dates are being verified.
He has a permanent address of Bihar and has different addresses on other IDs, they said.
He portrayed himself as ‘Peer Maulana’ and claimed to cure diseases by reading Ayats from Quran in Delhi and nearby areas.
He has two hideouts in Delhi — one in the walled city and the other one in Laxmi Nagar, police said.
Further investigations are on including if a lone wolf attack had been planned. The identification of the source of the weapon is also underway, police said.