Indian authorities arrested 13 people over suspected links to DAESH on Saturday as part of a nationwide counter-terrorism operation carried out in the run-up to the country’s Republic Day, which will be celebrated on Tuesday.
Indian Federal Home Ministry said that the counter-terrorism campaign represented the country’s largest-ever anti-DAESH operation.
The 13 suspects were detained in 12 locations in six different cities early on Friday morning. After being interrogated by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), the suspects were formally arrested on Saturday.
Indian authorities said that the suspects were allegedly “radicalised online” and were planning to conduct terrorist attacks targeting the Republic Day celebrations.
Indian local media reported that the NIA had found “explosive materials” in the suspects’ possessions.
The authorities also said that the suspects belonged to a group called "Junud-ul-Khalifa-e-Hind" ("Soldiers of the Caliphate of India") and its members had been under police surveillance for the past six months.
Some investigators believe that the group pledged allegiance to the Syria-based DAESH terrorist group.
On Friday, the group’s 33-year-old alleged leader, Mudabbir Sheikh, was arrested in Mumbai’s Muslim-majority Mumbra suburb, a senior police officer in Maharashtra State’s anti-terrorism squad said on condition of anonymity.
One of those detained for suspected DAESH links, Abu Anas, 24, is an information-security analyst from Hyderabad and his arrest reportedly sent shockwaves through the city’s IT industry.
The arrest of the 13 suspects linked to DAESH came days after the Indian authorities arrested five alleged al Qaeda operatives.
India made its first DAESH-linked arrest in November 2014 as Arif Majeed, a Muslim youth from Mumbai’s Kalyan suburb, returned to the country after spending four months in Syria - fighting for DAESH.
Majeed, along with three other youths, had allegedly joined the terrorist group after contacting other terrorists online. He is still in police custody.
One month after Majeed’s arrest in 2014, the Indian authorities arrested Mehdi Masroor Biswas in the city of Bangalore for allegedly running a Twitter account used to propagate DAESH’s ideology.