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According to officials, the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) has detained three Rajkot residents for their alleged affiliations with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda.

After acting on a tip-off, an ATS squad meticulously watched the suspects for many days before making the arrests. The West Bengali jewellers in the city’s jewellery business were allegedly in touch with a handler in Bangladesh who gave them instructions on how to carry out various tasks, including radicalising others to join their organisation, officials claimed.

Police chief Om Prakash Jat informed reporters that the ATS squad had taken them for questioning on Monday night.

Aman Malik, Shukra Ali, and Shaif Nawaz were detained and taken into custody. While the other two have only been here for the past seven to eight months, Nawaz has lived in Rajkot for the past two years. The first two come from West Bengal’s Bardhaman district, while the third is from Hooghly,” Jat said.

He claimed that materials related to radical thought, live ammunition, radical literature, films, and other items were found on the terror suspects.

The official stated that the materials had been removed from the accused and sent for forensic analysis. “A country-made semi-automatic pistol, 10 rounds of cartridges, five mobile phones with radical materials, encrypted messaging app, other free messaging app, and materials on how to use automatic and semi-automatic weapons were all recovered from the accused,” the official said.

Authorities are currently looking at mobile phones and banking activities to determine how closely connected they are to the terrorist group. The official claimed that the trio communicated with their handler via highly encrypted messaging apps.

According to the official, during their interrogation, Malik admitted to using the Telegram app for the past year to communicate with a foreign handler who served as the leader of Al-Qaeda in Bangladesh. Malik was also found to have used two messaging apps to obtain radical literature, videos, and training for automatic weapons.

According to Jat, Malik made contact with Shukra Ali and Shaif Nawaz who shared the same philosophy and consented to join the organisation. He further claimed that an investigation is ongoing to determine who else had joined the accused and how the weapons had been obtained.

The three have been detained in accordance with section 121 A of the Indian Penal Code (conspiring to overawe the central government or a state government by using criminal force or the threat of using criminal force) and the applicable provisions of the Arms Act.

The ATS raided an Al-Qaeda network earlier in May and detained four Bangladeshis who were illegally residing in Ahmedabad.

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