INDIA. Mumbai: On Monday, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested Junaid Mohammed (28) in Dapodi, Pune, on charges of receiving money from terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir to recruit youth to carry out terror activities. He was remanded in police custody until June 3.
According to the ATS, the accused was recruiting youth for terrorist activities for the banned Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Additional Sessions Judge SR Navandar granted ten days of police custody based on the pleadings of Additional Public Prosecutor Vijay Phargade.
The Legal Aid Committee provided Advocate Yashpal Purohit as a defence lawyer, who argued that the accused was misled.
The Kalachowky ATS unit in Mumbai had launched an investigation into four people in connection with the alleged recruitment of new members for the LeT and sending them to Jammu and Kashmir for training in subversive activities based on specific information.
On December 30, 2021, assistant police inspector Swapnil Chavan filed an FIR under IPC sections 121A (conspiracy to commit offenses), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), and 116 (abetment of an offence), as well as the IT Act. “During the investigation, one of the suspects was identified as Junaid Mohammed,” an ATS official said.
An ATS team led by Police Inspector Manjusha Bhosle apprehended Junaid on Monday. The three other suspects are still at large.
The accused, originally from Khamgaon in the Vidarbha region’s Buldhana district, has been living with relatives in Dapodi and working as a scrap dealer for the past few years. He has visited Jammu and Kashmir six times in the last two years.
The ATS claimed in its remand application that the accused communicated with terror operatives via phone messenger groups and social media platforms and received money for terror-related activities. Between 2021 and April 2022, he communicated with active LeT members through Hamidulla Zargar’s Whatsapp group, ‘Ansar Gazwat Ul Hind/ Tawheed.’
The accused was tasked with deceiving, brainwashing, and instilling anti-national feelings in a group of young people to recruit them as LeT members. His handlers used to reward him with money when he completed a task.
Junaid was in contact with Hamidulla Zargar of Kulgaon, Aftab Shah of Kishtwad, and Umar, all from Jammu and Kashmir, according to police inspector Manjusha Bhosale. These three people are now wanted in connection with the case.
During interrogation, the investigating agencies knew that the accused had received Rs 10,000 from a Jammu and Kashmir-based bank account. He was using different SIM cards to establish contacts with his handlers, and after every communication used to destroy the SIM card.
The ATS is also investigating whether he conducted reconnaissance of sensitive locations in the country, such as religious sites, vital installations, and defence establishments.
The ATS is also probing his role in the explosives found at Pune railways station last week and the conspiracy plot to assassinate a prominent political leader expected to address a rally in Pune to trigger communal riots.
Junaid is also suspected of having ties to another suspect, Ramesh Shah, who was arrested in February 2019 in Pune by the Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh ATS for allegedly providing terror funding from Pakistan for terrorist activities in India. Shah, a Bihar native who operated out of Uttar Pradesh, had fled to Maharashtra and settled in Pune.
Speaking to the Transcontinental Times, Defence lawyer Yashpal Purohit said, “As per the remand report, the accused was supposed to get arms and recruit more people with the funds he received. He travelled to Kashmir many times, but the purpose of these trips was unknown and that is why custody has been given. He was been brained washed by LeT recruiters.”