Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) planned more attacks after the February 14 Pulwama car bombing, some particularly in the National Capital Region (NCR), according to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which said that one of the operatives of the terror group carried out reconnaissance in Delhi.
The claim is part of the charge sheet filed before an NIA court in Delhi on September 16 against alleged JeM members Sajjad Ahmad Khan, Tanvir Ahmad Ganie, Bilal Ahmad Mir and Muzzafar Ahmad Bhat. Khan was arrested in March from Old Delhi and he allegedly carried out reconnaissance near critical government facilities such as South Block and Central Secretariat and areas like Delhi’s Civil Lines, BK Dutt Colony, Kashmere Gate, Lodhi Estate, Mandi House, Daryaganj as well as in Ghaziabad. The arrest of the other three followed that of Khan.
HT has reviewed the charge sheet against them, which is yet to be made public.
According to it, the four were allegedly in regular touch with Mudassir Ahmad, who has been named as the mastermind of the Pulwama attack. Ahmad was killed in Jammu and Kashmir’s Tral on March 10.
JeM claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force troopers. It prompted India to carry out an airstrike on a JeM camp deep inside Pakistan and brought the two countries to the brink of war.
The NIA charge sheet has also detailed how Ahmad, a JeM commander, stayed in touch with other members of the terror group and his handlers in Pakistan through “virtual mobile numbers” generated mostly in the US to allegedly plan attacks across India.
According to the charge sheet, Ahmad used two virtual mobile numbers (+19046063123 and +19042990636), both registered on messaging service WhatsApp, in the US to give directions to his associates.
Virtual mobile numbers work through a server for which users sign up by downloading an app on their smartphones. The number can then be used sign up for services like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and email accounts.
Security agencies say terrorists have begun to use these virtual numbers to hide their identities as photo IDs have been made mandatory in India for getting a SIM. The new modus operandi has been detailed in the charge sheet.
According to the charge sheet, Pakistan-based JeM terrorist Kari Mufti Yaseer infiltrated into India a few months before the Pulwama attack to recruit, train and motivate Kashmiri youths to carry out attacks. He was also using a virtual mobile number (+18143261052) through which he allegedly stayed in touch with Ahmad and Ganie. Yaseer remains on the run.
Mir was arrested in April and also used a virtual number (+19016677146) linked to WhatsApp. According to the charge sheet, in one of the chats using this number, Mir allegedly told Ahmad that he wanted to become like the bomber, who blew himself up in Pulwama.
“Bilal sent the video of Adil [Pulwama suicide bomber] on February 14 itself asking Sajjad if such an attack was planned, then he be considered as a fidayeen [suicide attacker] like Adil,” the NIA charge sheet says.
“On February 15, at about 10.24 hours, Bilal requested Mudassir... ‘next ma karuga insha allah’ [I will carry out the next suicide attack].”
The charge sheet says that Mir created an email account (firstname.lastname@example.org) and registered it with Text Now application in the name of Harris Bhai. By using the application, he activated a WhatsApp account on virtual mobile number +19317167558 (USA).
“Further, Bilal had saved number +19017432393 [virtual mobile number] in the name of one Rouf… in his mobile handset. He had also created a WhatsApp account named ‘JeM’ by using ‘Text Now’ application to get OTP code for activation of WhatsApp account on January 31, 2019. To hide his identity, he used virtual mobile number +19016677146 [USA number] for activation of a new WhatsApp account,” says the charge sheet.
The NIA has retrieved all the contents from the virtual numbers and Text Now application.
Similarly, Khan created some Facebook accounts with IDs “Harish Bin Khalid”, “RaHil”, “Netwon”, an email account, email@example.com, for secret communication with his JeM associates.
The charge sheet says the messages NIA retrieved from their phones and social media platforms reveal that Ahmad and other JeM members celebrated the Pulwama attack calling it “Kashmir ki Eid”.