In a major drive against outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India, 13 of its top leaders, including one wanted by Karnataka and Mumbai police in connection with terror activities, were arrested in Madhya Pradesh and a large cache of weapons seized from them.
The crackdown by Madhya Pradesh Police, along with central security agencies, began in and around Indore on Wednesday night and neighbouring Dhar district of the state during which top brass of the banned outfit was arrested.
Among the prominent SIMI leaders arrested were Shibly Peedicaal Abdul, wanted in connection with Mumbai train serial blasts of July 2006, former SIMI Chief Safdar Nagori and his brother Kamruddin Nagori, chief of the outfit's operations in Andhra Pradesh, and Hafiz of Karnataka.
Police sources said intelligence agencies had been keeping a tab on their movement for quite sometime before they were arrested.
Shibly is considered a prize catch as he is alleged to be part of the conclave which had met in Ujjain ahead of the Mumbai serial blasts that left over 180 people dead and hundred others injured on July 11, 2006.
Police recovered weapons, money and some documents from them. Some of the activists were arrested from Pithampur in Dhar district, a few km away from an army range.
Describing the operation as a 'big achievement' for the police, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said in Bhopal that 'weapons and computers have been found from arrested persons. Investigations are on into SIMI's plans to expand its network in the state'.
Karnataka DGP K Srinivas told PTI over phone from Bangalore that a team of policemen has been despatched to Indore to interrogate Shibly.
Inspector General (Indore range) Anil Kumar identified the prize catch as P A Shibly and said he was wanted by Bangalore police.
From A small-town origin in Kerala, Shibly was working in a multinational company and later set up his own firm, which police suspect is involved in money laundering for the organisation.
Perceived as India's top terrorist and a key figure in SIMI-linked network that carried out a string of terror strikes across southern India since 2003, Shibly, a computer engineer from Kerala who escaped last month's police sweep against terror suspects in Karnataka, is alleged to be among SIMI operatives who helped organise the serial bombings in Mumbai trains.
Shibly is believed to have participated in a conclave of SIMI members at Ujjain from July 4-7, 2006, where plans to revitalise the 'jihad' in India were discussed. Several members of the cell which executed the Mumbai serial bombings later participated in it.
Another important leader Safdar Nagori, son of a retired assistant sub-inspector of police, had been absconding since the ban was imposed on the outfit on September 27, 2001.
He is facing the charge of spreading religious discord since 1997-98.
The arrests came a little over a month after central security agencies and Karantaka and Andhra Pradesh Police arrested Raziuddin Nasir and Kerala-origin computer engineer Yahya Kamakutty who were allegedly planning bombings in Goa, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai.