MIR EHSAN & CHANDAN HAYGUNDE
Days after it received inputs that a girl from Pune, who had undergone counselling against radicalisation, may attempt a suicide bomb attack “near or inside the Republic Parade venue” in the Valley, J&K Police said on Friday that they had arrested the 18-year-old suspect. Police sources said the girl and an accomplice were arrested from Bijbhera town in south Kashmir. Police said they were not in a position to confirm further details, including whether the arrested suspect was a suicide bomber or not. IG (Kashmir Range) Muneer Ahmad Khan said police apprehended the suspect after following several leads. “We will talk to her and our sister agencies. We will cover every lead to know the facts. Only after proper investigation will we be able to come to any conclusion.
A case has been registered and further investigations are on.” Sources from investigative agencies believe the arrested suspect is Sadiya Anwar Shaikh, a pharmacy student from Pune who had started working in a call centre there recently. She is believed to have left Pune a few days ago, they said. Following the arrest in J&K, sleuths from the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) and police have contacted the girl’s family members in Pune and employees at the call centre where she works. Sources said Sadiya did not tell executives at her work place where she was going or when she would return. Sleuths probing terror cases have been keeping a watch on Sadiya since 2015 and believe that she has been “highly radicalised” by online propaganda operatives through email and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Telegram. At the time, the Pune unit of the Maharashtra ATS had provided counselling to Sadiya who was found have been mentally prepared to go to Syria and join the Islamic State.
But in July 2017, investigators nabbed her in Delhi while she was on her way to J&K. She was suspected be in touch with a person in J&K, with whom she wanted to get married and go abroad. After questioning, investigators handed Sadiya back to her family, with advice that she needed “strong counselling” by experienced Islamic scholars. Known to be a “bright student”, Sadiya returned to Pune to resume studies and also take up a job at the call centre. Investigators said she was staying with her mother and other family members in Kondhwa and Yerwada area of Pune. According to ATS sources, Sadiya had been “brainwashed” by online operatives to the extent that she started believing in the IS propaganda of establishing a “caliphate”. The terror operatives had promised to provide her admission to a medical course in Syria, and told her to be ready for IS work in India, sources said. ATS sleuths were told by the girl’s family members that she was so radicalised that her personal lifestyle changed drastically.