Officials of the Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) that looks after the counter-terrorism operations in both Telangana and AP told The Sunday Guardian that the perished SIMI activists were no ordinary criminals with simple criminal past. “They were hardened terrorists with specific targets and reach to radicalise Muslim youth,” said a senior official preferring not to be quoted.
Four of the eight killed—Mohammad Shaik, Zakir Hussain, Amjad Khan and Shaik Mahaboob— after the jail break in Bhopal were facing a dozen criminal cases for killing two police officials, including an inspector in May 2015 in Telangana. AP police, too, registered cases against them in East Godavari and Visakhapatnam for carrying out banned SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) activities.
These four were among the seven SIMI militants escaped from Khandwa jail on 1 October 2013 and when six of them were traveling through the Hyderabad-Vijayawada national highway, the police in Nalgonda district routinely stopped them at a check-post. When two of them—Mohammad Aslam and Ejazuddin — opened fire, two police officials were killed and the police later killed the two.
The four others escaped from the scene, but later Telangana police arrested them from a hideout in Orissa in February this year. After a brief interrogation in Orissa, they were subsequently shifted to Madhya Pradesh where they were tired for the Khandwa jailbreak. Telangana police in collaboration with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had gathered a lot of information from the four SIMI militants then.
The militants told the police that they were fanning out in the entire central south of the country—Telangana, AP, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh—to promote their cause of building violent resistance among the Muslim youth. The information that they would meet at the Visakhapatnam beach on the first of every month was gathered by the cops then.
These four had played a role in planning the jail break from the Bhopal jail on the suggestions of some other SIMI operatives lodged there, the SIB officials said. The cops said that Mohammad Shaik and Zakir Hussain were directly indoctrinated by SIMI former president Sayed Salahuddin, 47, who was killed in a road accident in Nalgonda in 2014. The four who later were shifted to Madhya Pradesh had told the cops that they would go to any extent to carry out their attacks against the targets like some political leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“There was a consistency in their confessions before the police of Telangana, AP and Orissa that they would not spare the police officials who had killed two of their colleagues in Nalgonda district,” said the SIB official. The two SIMI activists were killed in separate encounters on 4 April and 7 April at two places in Nalgonda district.
The SIMI operatives also had a grouse against the SIB cops of Telangana and AP as it is they who had gathered a lot of information about the banned outfit’s activities in this area and were even guiding the NIA officials in most of the operations. The SIB officials of Telangana went to Orissa and nabbed four of them along with old woman, on a tip off from Hyderabad.
The Telangana and AP police officials are relieved as a major mole of SIMI led by the slain four had been wiped out in Bhopal encounter. Otherwise, the escaped militants would have come to Visakhapatnam and carried out a major militant attack targeting some police officials and public property. The SIB cops are of the view that the Madhya Pradesh police who had carried out the encounter must have been weighed down by the series of killing of police men and officials and two jailbreaks by the SIMI activists. Even now, there are a dozen SIMI activists lodged in two central jails in Hyderabad and the authorities have stepped up security at these prisons after the Bhopal incident.