Key SIMI operative nabbed after 22 years from Maharashtra

Mumbai, Feb 25 (IANS): A key operative of banned SIMI and editor of its magazine 'Islamic Movement' (Urdu version), who allegedly indoctrinated many gullible Muslim youths, has been arrested by Special Cell of Delhi Police from Maharashtra after 22 years.

The alleged terrorist identified as Hanif Sheikh (47), a resident of Jalgaon district in Maharashtra, had 'Haneef Hudai' name printed on the magazine, which was the only lead available with the police, due to which his identity could not be established, a Delhi Police official said on Sunday.

The official said that he was being chased by the police team for the last four years and he has been absconding for more than 22 years in a case of sedition and Unlawful Activities registered in the year 2001 at New Friends Colony police station.

"Hanif was also declared proclaimed offender in said case in the year 2002 by the trial court," said a senior police official.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Alok Kumar said that Hanif was the most notorious and wanted elusive SIMI operative.

"He played a pivotal role in all the infamous events, including attending/arranging meetings of SIMI organisation in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, and Kerala. However, every time the police or other security agencies cracked down on the SIMI organisation, he absconded, vanishing into thin air without leaving any trace of his next move," said the DCP.

Recognising the danger posed by the escape of such a terrorist to societal harmony, a team from the Special Cell was tasked with collecting data/information about the absconding SIMI cadres, their sympathisers, and sleeper cells across states.

"They were also instructed to generate sources and deploy them to gather information in specific areas suspected to harbour SIMI sympathisers. The team extensively visited and collected information from various parts of the country, especially Delhi/NCR, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu," said the DCP.

The DCP further said that the team deployed their informers/sources in those areas and worked tirelessly day and night to develop the information received with the help of informers. They further verified the presence of his associates and made efforts to track them.

Specific information was received that the accused Hanif Sheikh had changed his identity to Mohd. Hanif and was working as a teacher in an Urdu School in Bhusawal, Maharashtra.

"A team was stationed there, and they zeroed in on him. Based on this information, a raiding party was formed, and a trap was laid near Asha Tower, Khadka Road, Bhusawal, Maharashtra. At about 2:50 p.m. on February 22, a suspicious person travelling from Mohmadin Nagar to Khadka road was identified as Hanif. Members of the team began to corner him, but Hanif sensed the presence of the police and attempted to escape. After a scuffle, he was apprehended by the team," said the DCP.

Earlier, on September 27, 2001, SIMI office bearers were addressing a press conference near their Headquarters in Jamia Nagar, Delhi, when the police conducted a raid, resulting in the arrest of many SIMI activists.

"Numerous SIMI cadres fled from the scene, including Hanif, and went into hiding. Incriminating material and provocative literature in the form of SIMI magazines (Islamic Movement), audio/videos on floppy disks, SIMI posters, computers, and photo albums were recovered from the SIMI headquarters," said the DCP.

The DCP further said that Hanif became highly radicalised after coming into contact with SIMI activists.

"After joining the SIMI organisation, he started attending its weekly programmes and radicalising Muslim youths to join the outfit. Impressed by his fervour, Sahid Badar, then President of SIMI, appointed Hanif Sheikh as the Editor of the Urdu edition of the SIMI magazine 'Islamic Movement' in 2001," said the DCP.

As per police, he wrote many provocative articles in the said magazine, falsely highlighting atrocities against Muslims in India.

"Subsequently, he was allotted a room in the SIMI headquarters, Zakir Nagar, Delhi. Hanif had a close association with Safdar Hussain Nagori, Abdus Shubhan Qureshi a.k.a Tauqeer, Noman Badar, Shahnaz Hussain, Saif Nachain, Mohd. Khalid, Danish Riyaz, Abdullah Danish, and other members of SIMI," said the DCP.

He, after absconding from Delhi in 2001, moved to Jalgaon and subsequently to Bhusawal, Maharashtra, continuously changing his locations to evade arrest.

"He started working as an Urdu Teacher in a Nagar Nigam School in Bhusawal, Maharashtra. He has also admitted to having visited many places in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, etc., and motivating many youths to join SIMI," said the DCP.

Since the SIMI organisation was banned, most of the active members splintered off.

"Some continued their terrorist activities independently and remained involved in various blasts and other anti-national activities," said the DCP.

Over time, senior members started new organisations under the name and style of 'Wahadat-e-Islam.' Most members of this organisation have a background/association with SIMI.

"The primary agenda of this organisation is to unite Muslim youth and propagate the theory of radical Islam. Hanif is one of the think tank members of Wahadat-e-Islam and plays an important role in Maharashtra and other adjoining states. He is also involved in collecting money under the guise of donations to support and finance the agenda of the banned organisation SIMI as well as Wahadat-e-Islam," the DCP added.



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Title: Key SIMI operative nabbed after 22 years from Maharashtra

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