New Delhi: A blast that rocked a passenger train and the subsequent 12-hour encounter with a gunman in Uttar Pradesh (UP) raises suspicions the Daesh terrorist group may be expanding its footprint in India, intelligence sources said.
The UP Anti-Terror Squad (ATS), which conducted the operation, said on Wednesday that slain gunman Saifullah was suspected to be an active member of Daesh.
“We had received information that an Isis-related group was being formed here and a suspect linked to it could be hiding here,” Aseem Arun of India’s anti-terror squad told reporters, using an acronym for the Daesh group.
“When we entered the room, he fired upon us and we also retaliated. About four to five bullets hit him and then Saifullah died,” he said.
Nine suspects have already been arrested from across UP and Madhya Pradesh (MP) following the blast in Ujjain-Bhopal Express on Tuesday morning in which 10 people were injured.
Intelligence sources told Gulf News more Daesh suspects could be at large.
On Wednesday, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said those who orchestrated the blast arrived from Lucknow and planted the bomb in the passenger train as part of a “pre-planned conspiracy”.
“The terrorists were influenced by [Daesh] terror ideology and carried out the blast. It was a pre-planned conspiracy,” Chouhan said in the legislative assembly.
State Home Minister Bhupendra Singh also said the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion in the passenger train was a “trial blast.”
“It was revealed during initial interrogation of the arrested terrorists that they were connected to [Daesh]. The explosion was a trial blast. The terrorists had plans to orchestrate the blasts at some other places also,” Singh told Gulf News.
Reacting to the encounter, Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Daesh ideology would not succeed in India.
“Isis-like ideology has shown itself as an enemy of peace and humanity. Isis has not succeeded before and they won’t ever in the time to come. We are well positioned to defeat them. They can succeed anywhere but not here. Our minorities are as nationalistic as anyone else,” Naqvi told media.
Meanwhile, Saifullah’s father refused to receive his body on Wednesday.
“A traitor can’t be our son. We are Indians, we were born here, our forefathers were born here. One who indulges in anti-national activities can’t be our son. We won’t accept his body,” Saifullah’s father Sartaj told journalists in Kanpur.
He said he had no idea about his son’s enlisting for terror activities.
Saifullah’s body has been moved now to a government hospital in the city.
Security forces took more than 11 hours to neutralise him in a house in the Haji Colony of Lucknow’s Thakurganj area where he was residing for the past couple of months.
Sources said the house belonged to one Badshah Khan, resident of Malihabad, and the suspect had been living there as a student along with two others.
An Isis flag, eight pistols, 650 rounds of ammunition, 50 fired rounds, explosives, gold, cash, passports, SIM cards and a train time table were found along with the suspect’s body.
Chief minister Chouhan said Saifullah belonged to the Khorasan module of Daesh and was an active member. But whether he had been indoctrinated or not was a matter of investigation.
The Khorasan module consists of senior Al Qaeda members operating from Syria.
The mastermind of the attack is one G.M. Khan who was earlier working for the Air Force. According to sources, Khan taught the other members of the module about Isis via books and texts.
Last month, the Khorasan Module took responsibility of the attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Pakistan which killed 75 people.