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Who is Shahnawaz, the ISIS terrorist on NIA's most wanted list?

Shahnawaz, a wanted figure in the ISIS Pune module case, had been in hiding since evading arrest during a police raid in Pune. He was part of an alleged plot to instigate violence and terror within the country. The arrest is part of a joint effort between Delhi Police Special Cell and multiple agencies

Who is Shahnawaz, the ISIS terrorist on NIA's most wanted list
First Published Oct 2, 2023, 12:42 PM IST

The Special Cell of the Delhi Police has apprehended a suspected ISIS terrorist, Shahnawaz, also known as Shafi Uzzama, from a clandestine location in the national capital. This operation is part of a collaborative effort between the Delhi Police Special Cell and multiple agencies cooperating with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to dismantle terror networks spanning several states.

Shahnawaz, an engineer by profession, was a wanted figure in the ISIS Pune module case. Sources indicate that he originally hails from Delhi but had relocated to Pune. In July, a police raid in Pune led to the arrest of two of Shahnawaz's associates, while he managed to evade capture and returned to Delhi. Since then, he had been living in hiding.

Shahnawaz, along with individuals named Abdulla and Rizwan, was allegedly radicalized through the Telegram app, with connections to an ISIS module in Pune, Maharashtra. Their alleged objective was to instigate violence and terror within the country. According to NIA sources, Abdulla reportedly operated a diaper store in Pune, which was allegedly used to assemble explosive devices. There are concerns that he may attempt to flee to Oman.

Rizwan Ali, a resident of Delhi, had faced arrest in 2018, along with his younger brother, for suspected ISIS affiliations. However, security agencies could not substantiate the charges against them, and Rizwan was eventually released after undergoing a deradicalization program. He subsequently moved to Pune, informed his family that he was engaged in a computer business, got married, and lived there with his wife. Recently, they returned to Delhi due to his father's illness, but Rizwan left his home two months ago.

During the investigation, it came to light that Shahnawaz had stored acid in the vicinity of Bopatghat near Kondhwa. To secure the acid and various chemicals used in explosive manufacturing, the NIA enlisted the assistance of the Bomb Disposal and Detection Squad.

On July 22, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) took over the case's investigation. As part of their inquiry, the ATS detained additional individuals, including IT engineer Qadir Dastagir Pathan and SN Kazi in Kondhwa. These suspects were booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. During the operations, various materials were seized, and investigators discovered 500 gigabytes of data on laptops and mobile phones. This data included links to instructional bomb-making videos on YouTube and Google images of different locations. It was revealed that Shahnawaz may have been contacted by an overseas handler in February, instructing him to carry out a terror attack.

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