‘India’s Osama’ held after over 9 years

A top Indian Mujahideen figure and the alleged architect of the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts that claimed over 50 lives was arrested in East Delhi after a brief gun battle. After being on the run for over nine years — during which he lived in Nepal and Saudi Arabia — 46-year-old Abdul Subhan Qureshi, often described as “India’s Osama bin Laden”, resurfaced to revive IM cells in the country.

Qureshi, a software engineer-turned bomb maker who studied and worked in Mumbai before embracing extremist ideologies, is suspected to be involved in the July 2006 explosions aboard local trains. He has not been charged over the attacks that killed over 180 people, but the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad is now expected to seek his interrogation to ascertain his role. Qureshi has been also been linked to the July 2011 blasts in Mumbai.

The Delhi police’s Special Cell nabbed Qureshi, also known as Tauqeer, from East Delhi’s Gazipur area on the night of January 20, but they announced the arrest only on Monday. A 9mm pistol, five cartages and a set of documents were seized from him.

Qureshi was one of India’s most wanted terrorists and the National Investigation Agency had declared a reward of Rs.4 lakh for solid leads about his whereabouts. He is believed to have played a major role in the creation of IM with the lead founder Riyaz Bhatkal, who is now in Pakistan, and allegedly trained several youths at camps in at least four states. Some reports describe Qureshi as a co-founder of IM. He faces a number of cases related to the camps, and his association with the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India and people linked to terror cases.

Qureshi was born in UP, but his family moved to Mumbai when he was very young. He studied in a Byculla school and later completed a diploma in industrial electronics at a Navi Mumbai college. He worked at a Fort company before being drawn to activities of SIMI in Kurla in 1995-96. By 2000, he had become completely disillusioned with the establishment and resolved to follow the path of jihad, according to investigators Mirror spoke to.

Qureshi quit his job in Mumbai and moved to Delhi. He became close to SIMI chief Safdar Nagori, who was last year sentenced Safdar Nagori to life imprisonment for possessing arms and plotting terror activities.

Qureshi constantly changed his location after authorities started cracking down on SIMI activities in 2000 and banned the organisation a year later. Enraged by the arrest of several SIMI members, including Nagori, Qureshi contacted Bhatkal in May 2008 and went to meet him in Pune, where he allegedly offered his expertise for plotting and executing the Ahmedabad attacks. Twenty-three explosions rocked Ahmedabad on July 26, 2008, killing 56 people and injuring over 150. According to cops, over 50 bombs were planted in busy locations such as markets and bus stations. Twenty-nine of them did not explode and were recovered between July 27 and August 3, 2008. Unexploded IEDs were also found in Surat.

“Qureshi is the mastermind of the Ahmedabad blasts. He fled to Nepal after the attacks. He lived there under a false identity before travelling to Saudi Arabia in 2015 to raise funds for reviving IM’s network,” Kushwaha said. “He lived in Saudi Arabia till June 2017.”

The DCP described Qureshi as a “very sharp-minded man” who lately had been trying to radicalise unemployed youths. “We are also investigating his role in Mumbai train blasts,” Kushwaha told Mirror.

The Maharashtra ATS will soon send a team to Delhi to seek access to Qureshi, an officer said. ATS chief Atulchandra Kulkarni said Qureshi’s main role as a terror operative had been to draw people into IM’s fold. “We suspect his role in the train serial blasts, but things will become clear only after his custody,” he said.

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