UP ATS arrests third suspected ISI operative, police confirms nexus with Pakistan High Commission
The UP Anti-Terrorism Squad in a joint exercise with Maharashtra Police carried out overnight raids and nabbed a suspected ISI operative in Mumbai, who was part of an espionage racket linked to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.
Lucknow: The UP Anti-Terrorism Squad in a joint exercise with Maharashtra Police carried out overnight raids and nabbed a suspected ISI operative in Mumbai, who was part of an espionage racket linked to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.
Three ISI suspects have been arrested since Wednesday as the UP ATS launched a massive crackdown to smash the espionage racket.
Acting on leads provided by ISI suspect Aftab Ali, arrested from Faizabad, 120 km from here on Wednesday, the UP ATS picked up Altaf Qureshi late on Wednesday night from Masjid Bunder area in South Mumbai and Javed Iqbal from Yusuf Manzil building at Agreepada this morning, IG UP-ATS Aseem Arun said in Lucknow.
He said the trio was involved in an espionage racket, with Aftab, believed to have been trained by Pakistan's spy agency ISI, maintaining constant touch with officials in the Pakistan High Commission.
Hinting that officials of Pakistan High Commission were in direct touch with the ISI agent, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Aditya Mishra said, "One of the officials of Pakistan High Commission Meharban Ali was in touch with the agents."
Ali asked them to gather information about army movements and military installations in and around Lucknow and Faizabad.
Subsequently, Ali was expelled from India along with eight other embassy officials of different countries.
Ali had promised Aftab that he will arrange a visa for him.
"But, after Ali left India, he was replaced by another handler," Mishra said at a media briefing here.
When asked whether the new handler is attached with the Pakistan High Commission, he said, "This aspect is also being looked into."
"Some of the relatives of Aftab are living in Pakistan, and he wanted to meet them. His visa was rejected three times.
In the fourth attempt, his visa was approved, and it was during this time that he was actually indoctrinated.
"Aftab went to Pakistan for first time on May 1, 2014. He went to Lahore via Wagah border and stayed in Karachi's Green Town. There he came in touch with ISI agent and was imparted training. Aftab returned to India on 28 June 2016, and was in constant touch with officials of Pakistan High Commission," the ADG said.
He said the army intelligence played a key role in busting the ISI activities.
"Some of the information which Aftab had passed to his Pakistan handlers included posting of different battalions of army in Lucknow and Faizabad, military installations and Army platoons in Amritsar," he said.
On whether any woman was used as "honey trap", Mishra said, "We do not have any information in this regard. We have photographs and call details as evidence."
Pictures of the cantonment area in Faizabad have been recovered from Aftab's mobile phone and more clues are likely to be found through his mobile chats, he said.
Following Aftab's interrogation, Qureshi, a hawala operator who also allegedly worked for ISI was held in Mumbai, while Iqbal, the third suspect, is an aide of Qureshi, IG-ATS Arun said.
Qureshi had allegedly deposited money in the bank account of Aftab for carrying out espionage activities.
ATS officials seized a cell phone and Rs 71.57 lakh in cash from the house of Qureshi, who was in hawala business at the behest of one Jawed Naviwala, the officer said.
During the duo's interrogation, it was found that Javed used to get instructions from Pakistan and at his behest Qureshi often deposited money in Aftab's bank account, he said.
Police were questioning Qureshi to know on whose directive he had deposited the money in Aftab's account.
Javed was in constant touch with ISI officials in the neighbouring country, he said.
During their interrogation, names of some more persons cropped up, the official said, adding more arrests are likely.
Aftab, booked under the Official Secrets Act, had allegedly passed on information about Indian Army's movements to officers posted at Pakistan High Commission and also to ISI, the official claimed.
He had allegedly provided information about the army's movements and units in Faizabad, Lucknow and Amritsar, he said.
Aftab is a resident of Khwaspura area of Faizabad, Arun said.
The ATS was continuously getting reports about military information being leaked to intelligence officials in the Pakistani High Commission and ISI and the agency was working on it through electronic surveillance.
The ATS got cracking after Uttar Pradesh Police recently issued a warning of a possible terror attack in the state by ISI-trained terrorists.
"The group, allegedly trained by Pakistan's ISI, has reportedly been asked to target Ayodhya, Varanasi, Vrindavan, and the Taj Mahal in Agra," UP police said.
Acting on intelligence inputs, security was upgraded at several religious places - including Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura - and also at vital installations, including airports, bus and railway stations.
Central intelligence agencies have been sharing inputs with the UP Police since February about increased activity of terrorists in the state.
A Khurasan module was unearthed after Saifullah's death in March. Recently, some self-radicalised youths were also arrested by the UP Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today said he was saddened by the news of bomb blasts in Hyderabad and condoled the loss of lives in the terror attack.
The National Investigation Agency did not object to the discharge applications filed by the arrested accused, saying evidence collected by it were "not in consonance" with those obtained earlier by Maharashtra Anti-terrorism Squad and CBI, which had recommended their prosecution.
ATS probing the 2006 suburban train blasts, filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court today saying that it had destroyed call data records of all the 13 accused.