A possible nexus between the Students Islamic Movement of India, a banned students’ body, and the moles of ISIS is under the scanner of Telangana police who are set to interrogate four SIMI activists arrested in Orissa on Wednesday. The four SIMI members will be brought to Hyderabad in the next two weeks in connection with three cases against them here.

The arrested persons have admitted that they had hatched a conspiracy to kill Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other top BJP leaders, besides planning explosions at major cities like Bhopal, Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

They are believed to have contacts with the moles of Al Qaeda, LeT and Indian Mujahideen, besides ISIS. A major indicator which drove the cops to investigate this aspect is the fact that the arrested SIMI extremists were using Hindu names as cover when they moved around.

They used names like Bharat, Sanjay, Ritesh and Mahesh after escaping from a central jail in Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh on 1 October 2013.

They acquired identity cards like Aadhar, ration cards and telephone connections etc by using their fake Hindu identity. Even their house owner at Rourkela was made to believe that the SIMI activists were Hindus. This tactic matches with the recent deposition of David Headley, an accused in 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, that he had collected some saffron ribbons from a Ganesh temple in Mumbai so that they could be supplied to the terrorists for camouflage.

The NIA, sources told this newspaper, has received information that terror outfits are using Hindu identity for their members for easy movements.

In a crackdown jointly coordinated by the NIA (National Investigating Agency), Telangana and Orissa police, the SIMI members — Mohammad Khaliduddin (29), Md Azam Khan (26), Zakir Hussain (27) and Mohaboob Guddu (31) — were taken into custody from a hideout at Rourkela in Orissa, along with an old woman, suspected to be their cook.

Led by NIA, as many as eight states — Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Telangana, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka — had launched a hunt for these militants for the last two years. They were involved in over 25 crimes, including bank robberies, killing of police constables and theft of vehicles in these states.

Two of them, Mohammad Ejaduddin and Mohammad Aslam Khan, were shot dead in an encounter at Janakipuram in Nalgonda district by the Telangana police in April 2015. Their other members were believed to have fled to Orissa.

Since then, the Telangana police joined the manhunt for the terrorists. “Though the teams of several other states too were on the search, NIA and the Union Home Ministry specifically banked on the expertise of Telangana police who have experience in tracking Islamic militants since 2007-08,” a senior police official in the counter-intelligence wing told The Sunday Guardian on Saturday.

This batch of SIMI militants seems to be concentrating on economic offences like bank robberies and ATM looting. The CCTV cameras at a public sector bank in Choppadandi in Karimnagar district caught the images of Ejajuddin and Azam Khan and Khaliduddin, when they looted about Rs 45 lakh cash on 5 February 2014.

Later, they looted gold jewellery from Muthoot Finance, a private gold loan lender. As per the evidence gathered by the cops, these extremists move fast and change their identity quickly. For instance, after killing a constable at Suryapet last year, they disguised themselves as the devotees of Sai baba and wore saffron robes. Telangana police are moving a transit warrant petition before the Rourkela court next week and are prepared to grill the SIMI militants with sufficient evidence. The police are hopeful that their interrogation would be helpful in tracking the reach and coordination among different Islamic terror outfits in the country.

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