Terrorists and new recruits from India who go to Pakistan for arms and explosive trainings are now entering Pakistan through Iran and are taking the same route to come back to India after completing their training. The interrogation of Mohammed Asif, 43, who is suspected to be the “India in-charge” of the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and was arrested by the Delhi Police special cell in December last year, has revealed this new route that is being taken by the terrorists who leave India on a valid passport under the garb of going on a pilgrimage.
Asif, who is a resident of Sambhal district of Uttar Pradesh, stayed in Waziristan in Pakistan from July 2013 to April 2014 during which he was given religious training and asked to motivate other youths to join the “cause” of the terrorists.
As per the interrogation of Asif, he was motivated to go to Pakistan by one Mohammed Usman who also was a resident of Sambhal and an old acquaintance of Asif. Usman is also the person who arranges for the travel of youths to Pakistan. He is right now in Pakistan.
After getting convinced by Usman of the “atrocities” being perpetrated on Muslims in India, Asif applied for a tourist visa to go to Iran which was denied following which he applied for a pilgrimage visa to visit Imam Khomeini’s grave situated in the southern part of Tehran.
Asif, after getting the visa, left India in June 2013 and landed in Tehran from where he was taken to Zahedan near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and which is only about 50 km from the borders of these three countries. Asif was put up in a guesthouse which also had Uighur separatists and Uzbek separatists who were waiting for their turn to join the training camps.
From there, Asif was taken to Rituk on the Iran-Pakistan border and was asked to go inside a mosque whose front door is in Iran but its back door opens in Pakistan. After he entered the mosque, he exited it from the back door and entered Pakistan.
As per the interrogation report, Asif was then taken to Quetta, which is a 14-hour journey by bus. Later, he was moved to Ghazni in Afghanistan on a motorbike, a journey which took two days.
From Ghazni, Asif went to Azam Warsak, south Waziristan, Pakistan and from there he, on 23 July— roughly one month after boarding a flight to Iran from New Delhi —finally landed at the Al Qaeda training camp located at Miramshah, North Waziristan, where he stayed until April 2014 before returning to India in October 2014.
“This new route provides a good cover to members of the local terror modules as they can easily secure a permission to go to Iran for the purpose of pilgrimage. The earlier routes which included going to Nepal, Dubai and Bangladesh and then entering Pakistan have come under keen scrutiny because of which now many terror groups ask their men to come to Iran first,” an official with the security apparatus said.
According to Asif’s confession, which has been corroborated by the Indian agencies through their resources in Iran, he began his return journey from Pakistan via Iran in April 2014 through the same route which he had taken to enter Pakistan. However, while going to Tehran from Zahedan, he was caught by the Iranian border agency as his visa had expired and he was lodged in a local jail. After 30 days in jail, he was thrown near the Turkey border. In Turkey, he stayed in Sarai. Thereafter he contacted the Indian embassy at Istanbul and made a false declaration that he had lost his passport. Later, the Indian embassy after getting convinced of his Indian nationality, issued an emergency certificate and he came back to India in October 2014.
Asif also told the interrogators that it was during his stay at this training camp that the chief of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack in November 2013 near the camp, following which, those who were at the camp, were shifted to a new location at Datta Khel, which is on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
According to Asif, during his nine-month stay in the camp, he came across terrorists of different groups including Lashkar, Hizbul Mujahideen, Indian Mujahideen and TTP, who were training together.