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Laden With Risk
The Islamic Movement of Sudanese Students (imss) is a relatively unknown and low-profile, Pune-based organisation. But now it is high on the watch list of the IB and other Indian agencies. The reason: according to intelligence sources, its activists owe allegiance to Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the recent terrorist aircraft attacks in the US. Intelligence sources say that bin Laden has already been able to get a foothold in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore and some small towns of Uttar Pradesh mainly through university students from some African nations like Yemen and Sudan. Other than the imss, intelligence agencies have also put the Students' Islamic Movement of India (simi), a pan-Islamic organisation in India, under its scanner. The government has already linked simi with the Kashmiri militant outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen.
The IB and Delhi Police should know about the imss. A little over three months ago, acting on an IB tip-off, Delhi Police had arrested Abdul Raouf Hawash, a Sudanese national, and his Indian co-conspirator, Shamim Sarwar, with a pre-fabricated ied or improvised explosive device filled with 6 kg of rdx and a detonator. Two others—Abbas Hussain Sheikh alias Abbas Bhai and Arshad Khan alias Laddu—were arrested later.
With these arrests came to light a larger plot hatched by a bin Laden loyalist, Abdul Rehman Al Safani, another Sudanese national who is "supposed to have visited India on a fake passport". However, the police could never lay their hands on Al Safani. "His whereabouts are not known; he just disappeared after the arrest of Hawash," says a top official of the special cell of Delhi Police.
Hawash is said to have provided investigators valuable information on the activities of bin Laden, especially on his masterplan of attacking US establishments in South Asia. This included an attack on the US embassy in Delhi. The plot took shape after Sarwar, a student in Patna of Urdu and Persian whom Hawash had met and befriended in 1998, came to Delhi. Hawash also met a Sudanese national, whose identity hasn't been disclosed.
This Sudanese national, say investigators, was on a special mission to India. He was looking for technical people, especially mechanical engineers "specialising in manufacturing arms and ammunition", and also nuclear scientists willing to work in Sudan. The police say Hawash rented a flat in Delhi's Munirka area to carry out the plans. In February 2001, Hawash was introduced to Al Safani. Sarwar was roped in and they discussed the plan to blow up the US embassy.
Hawash told interrogators that Al Safani promised Rs 95 lakh for the execution of the plan and had paid Rs 5 lakh in advance. According to the plan, a female driver would park a car full of explosives and a timer device near the visa section of the US embassy and quietly walk off. However, the plan failed thanks to the tip-off and subsequent arrests.
When Hawash was arrested, the IB was critical of the police exposing the bin Laden angle as it hampered intelligence gathering. However, the police still sticks to its earlier stand. Says Ashok Chand, dcp (intelligence) of Delhi Police: "I don't want to get into that controversy but we stick to our earlier stand that the persons arrested were actually connected with Osama bin Laden."
Meanwhile, Delhi Police last week announced the arrest of two Pakistani nationals—Sayyed Mohammad and Maqsood Ahmed—belonging to the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. Two kg of rdx and a hand grenade were recovered from them.
Intelligence agencies are now working overtime to keep a watch on the activities of organisations of Sudanese and Yemenese students. They feel many Islamic mercenaries operating in Kashmir as jehadis are from these two countries. What is worrying the agencies is the fact that such indoctrinated groups are in Indian universities and seats of religious learning, who could be potential recruits for bin Laden's terrorist outfits like Al Qaeda.