Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 8:
Even as Odisha police is patting itself on the back on its ‘successful’ anti-Maoist operation and even giving tips to others on how to combat left-wing extremism (LWE), sleeper cells of terror outfits have spread their tentacles in western Odisha’s Rourkela, Rajgangpur, Jharsuguda and Sambalpur.
This startling revelation came to the fore after the chilling police encounter in Nalgonda district in Telangana on Saturday in which two members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and two policemen were killed.
According to police, the two suspected SIMI operatives were involved in dacoity on the Dhanbad-Alleppey Express near Kesinga Railway station in Kalahandi district on February 15 this year and robbery of Rs 1.25 lakh from Jharsuguda Gramya bank on December 23, 2013.
They were a part of a 15-17 member gang of which around 8-10 belong to western Odisha. The slain duo was part of a group of seven undertrials, who had escaped from Khandwa jail in Madhya Pradesh in 2013.
It may be mentioned here that Madhya Pradesh ATS team searched several places in Sambalpur and Jharsuguda in December 2013 with the help of local police in its hunt for these absconding SIMI men and found some money. But the accused had already fled th area by then.
To everyone’s surprise, the state police had no inkling of the terror operatives that have been active in western Odisha since close to a decade and a half. “There is no presence fo SIMI in Odisha,” DGP Sanjeev Marik announced here without batting an eyelid ahead of the workshop on ways to combat LWE organised by Odisha police here today.
At a time when the state is agog for the forthcoming Nabakalebara festival scheduled in mid July, the presence of terror operatives is going to be a serious concern for the state police as around 5 million visitors are expected to visit the pilgrim town of Puri around that time.
It may be recalled that in January this year, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had issued an alert to Odisha on possible terror attack on vital installations and religious places in the state. All 30 districts of the state were put on high alert after intelligence agencies warned of attacks by Pakistan-based militant group Indian Mujahideen.
Highly placed sources said the gang has been operating in this part of the state since 2000 and had abducted a Rourkela-based businessman for ransom in 2000-01. The businessman was released after his family coughed up a hefty sum.
Taking advantage of the lax intelligence system and loopholes in the security apparatus, western Odisha has turned a safe haven for these terror operatives.
According to intelligence sources, gangster Aftab Ansari is controlling the operations of the gang from inside the jail in West Bengal (Alipore Central Jail). Though the gang is into robbery, dacoity and abductions, it has links with Pakistan-based terror outfits Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Indian Mujahideen (IM). Pakistan intelligence agency ISI is also backing the gang. The gang also tried to establish links with Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other banned terror outfits in the world.
Notably, Aftab Ansari was sentenced to death in the January 2002 terrorist attack on the American Center in Kolkata in which five policemen were killed and around 20 injured.
Sources close to the investigation reveal that ISI and other terror outfits were supplying explosives, arms and ammunitions, fake passports and arranging safe hideouts in Pakistan and Dubai for members of this gang. In return, this gang was extending support to these terror funding organisations to execute their terrorist activities in West Bengal and Odisha.
They were actively involved in providing logistics support to these outfits. They were helping the terrorists infiltrate the borders through Bangladesh. Besides, they were being used as couriers to deliver arms consignments in the country.
The two suspected slain activists of SIMI were identified as Mohammed Aijajuddeen, a native of Kareli in Narsinghpur district of Madhya Pradesh and Mohammed Aslam alias Bilal who hailed from Ganesh Talai in Khandwa in the same state.