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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Zakir Naik-inspired jihadis planned to poison prasad in Mumbra temple: Police

The ISIS-linked terror suspects of the Ummat-E-Mohammaddiya group arrested from Mumbra near Mumbai in January were planning to poison the maha prasad given out to devotees at the ancient Mumbreshwar temple, the charge sheet filed by Maharashtra Anti Terror Squad in a Mumbai court said, reports India Today.

According to the charge sheet, the terror group was inspired by the Islamic State and was an avid follower of controversial Islamic preacher & televangelist Zakir Naik. The social media profile of the accused revealed several videos of Zakir Naik on their accounts. They were allegedly planning to target 400-year-old Mumbreshwar temple in Mumbra and poison the maha prasad to kill around 400 Hindu devotees.

Incidentally, Naik once received lavish praise from senior journalist Shekhar Gupta during an interview and was called the ‘rock star of tele-evangelism’, ‘a preacher of modern Islam’, and the interview ended with Gupta wishing Naik ‘keeps on growing in popularity’.

Naik is currently holed up in Malaysia with the active protection of the Mahatir Mohammed led Malaysian government. He has also been blamed by Bangladesh for radicalizing the terrorists responsible for the Holey Artisan Bakery attack in Dhaka.

Some of the arrested jihadis who wanted to poison prasad distributed at the Mumbreshwar temple (Source: ABP Majha)

The chargesheet also added that the accused underwent training for making explosives and poison and participated in blast trials at a hill near the Mumbra bypass in Thane district.

The Ummat-E-Mohammaddiya group was also planning other mass casualty attacks by mixing poisonous chemical mixtures in water and food at public gatherings. The 10 arrested men ranged from 17 to 32 years old and were all well-educated, internet savvy and working in white-collar jobs as software/mechanical/civil engineer, architect, medical representative etc. They even had an ‘HR manager’ who would ‘orient’ new recruits and encouraged them to start physical training to get fit for the forthcoming ‘war’.

The chargesheet says that one of the men Talha alias Abubakar Potrekar (24) had tried to poison the prasad distributed at the Shreemad Bhagwat Katha organised in December last year at the Mumbreshwar temple, where thousands of devotees consumed the prasad.

The ATS identified Abu Hamza as the group leader, who conducted the blast trials. Some of the accused arrested also attended physical training sessions for terror activities at a stadium in Mumbra. A few group members were also in contact with their foreign-based handlers.

Mass murdering Hindu pilgrims by poisoning their food and water is not a new development in the jihadi world. The idea has been doing the rounds for quite some time, and it is only the improved effectiveness of the intelligence agencies in recent years that has prevented this tragedy from coming true.

In 2017, Kerala police had issued an alert after intelligence reports came in of possible poisoning of Sabarimala pilgrims by Islamic State terrorists. A letter was issued by Thrissur Railway Police Station Sub-Inspector to the station manager about Islamic State’s plan to poison drinking waters served to non-Muslim group of passengers in trains and at railway stations.

At the time, an audio message in Malayalam from terrorist Rashid Abdullah, leader of the Kasaragod IS module who had left Kerala to join Islamic State in Afghanistan, was doing the rounds on social media. It said – “You use your intellect. Poison them in food. Use trucks. Drive over them at Thirssur pooram or at Maha Kumbh Mela. IS Mujahideen are doing it in several parts of the world.  In Las Vegas, one of our supporters killed many people at a music concert. At least you should try to derail a train. Or use a knife.”

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