New Delhi: Just when India’s intelligence agencies had discounted the threat from the Islamic State (IS) to the Indian subcontinent, the country’s vulnerability to the now- fragmented terror group stood exposed on Wednesday with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) saying it had busted an IS module in the nerve centres of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

Security establishments had maintained over the last year that the IS—like the Al-Qaeda—posed little to no threat to India’s security. But Wednesday’s arrest of 10 alleged members of the IS affiliate Harkat-ul Harb-e-Islam highlights the first major instance of the group’s proliferation in the country.

The discovery comes a month ahead of Republic Day celebrations and takes the total number of IS-related arrests to 200, according to a senior central government official.

“We searched 16 locations in total. They were in advanced stage of preparing for and carrying out a series of blasts. They were targeting vital installations, security installations, important persons—political and other personalities—and crowded places. They even had plans to carry out terror and fidayeen attacks and were in the process of making suicide vests," NIA spokesperson, inspector general Alok Mittal said.

The NIA along with Delhi and Uttar Pradesh police seized a large amount of explosives, weapons, ammunition, including a country-made rocket launcher, a total of 7.5 lakh in cash, nearly 100 mobile phones, 135 SIM cards, laptops and memory cards.

“They were in touch with a handler abroad and the main gang leader is Jaffrey Sohail who works in an Amroha mosque in Uttar Pradesh as a maulvi (cleric) and he was guiding these boys. They wanted to make several bombs, and we found 120 alarm clocks, potassium nitrate, potassium chlorate, sulphur and sugar paste to the extent of 25kg," Mittal added.

Mittal said the group had been in existence for the last four months, during the course of which the agency had received intelligence inputs on its presence. The group was self-funded and its members were engineering and other graduate students from middle income families.

Defence experts added that even though the IS was only functional in Syria, there were similar radical organizations which were prevalent in India.

“All Islamic radical organizations would be functioning in the same manner. IS as an organization isn’t capable of controlling this world over. But homegrown terrorism can take shape. We need to keep our eyes open on the way terrorism can take shape in the rest of India in the form of indirect attacks and not just in Kashmir. Wednesday’s searches are just preliminary information and we need to see how fast prosecution starts," said Lt Gen (retd) H.S Panag.

Intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that they had been keeping a close watch on the activities of IS affiliates.

“We have been closely tracking the development of Islamic State in India and what we saw in south India and Kashmir is worrying," the official said.

The official added that while radicalization was rampant in Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, the pattern of using radio frequency improvised explosive devices, civilian killings and the threat of suicide bombings in Kashmir indicated a proliferation of IS affiliates in India.

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