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50-day planning, 93 locations, 106 arrests — how NIA, ED executed India’s 1st ‘coordinated raids’

Raids carried out at houses & offices of leaders of the Islamic outfit, PFI, & its allied organisations. Arrested include PFI co-founder P. Koya, chairman O.M.A. Salem & SDPI president E. Aboobacker.

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New Delhi: Over 50 days of planning, several meetings, mapping of locations and presentations went into executing India’s first-ever “coordinated raids”, where over 1500 personnel from multiple agencies raided 93 locations in 15 states simultaneously at 3 am sharp Thursday, ThePrint has learnt.

The raids — at houses and offices of leaders of the Islamic outfit the Popular Front of India (PFI) and allied organisations — were conducted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED), and local police forces and resulted in the arrest of 106 people.

Among the arrested are PFI co-founder P. Koya, also an erstwhile member of the banned the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), PFI chairman O.M.A. Salem and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) president E. Aboobacker, along with other PFI members.

The SDPI is regarded as the political arm of the PFI.

Out of the 106 arrests made in the raids, NIA arrested 45 people involved in five cases registered by the agency in the past one year — one in Hyderabad, three in Delhi and one in Kochi — while the others were taken into custody by the ED and local police forces, said sources in the NIA.

Of the 45 arrests made by the NIA, 19 accused were arrested from Kerala, 11 from Tamil Nadu, seven from Karnataka, four from Andhra Pradesh, two from Rajasthan and one each from UP and Telangana, the sources added.

According to NIA sources, the agency is probing 19 cases involving members of the PFI and they had specific “inputs and evidence that the PFI leaders and cadres were involved in funding of terrorism and terrorist activities, organising training camps for providing armed training and radicalising people to join banned organisations”.

The PFI members were “radicalising and recruiting Muslim youth to join proscribed organisations like ISIS,” the sources alleged.

A raid was also carried out in Telangana last week, following which the NIA had claimed that PFI was organising camps for imparting training to “commit violent and terrorist acts with the objective of promoting enmity between different groups on the basis of religion”.

On Thursday, raids were carried out in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal, Bihar and Manipur and “incriminating evidence”, including some sharp-edged weapons and documents were seized. No firearm, however, was recovered from the possession of those arrested, NIA sources claimed.

ThePrint also reached the ED spokesperson over phone, but the calls went unanswered.

Sources in the ED said the agency is investigating money laundering charges against PFI members and that the sources of funds received by the outfit are also under probe.

While the number of arrests made by the ED during the raid is as yet unclear, according to ED sources four men — Shafeeque Rahima, accused of collecting funds from Gulf countries for the PFI, Parvez Ahmed, the PFI’s Delhi president, Ilyas Ahmed, the outfit’s general secretary in Delhi and office secretary Abdul Muqueet are in ED custody.

 Condemning the arrests, a PFI spokesperson told ThePrint that NIA”s claims were “baseless” and accused the agency of “creating an atmosphere of terror”.

“We condemn the nationwide raids by the NIA & ED and the unjust arrests and the harassment of its (PFI’s) national and state leaders across India and the witch-hunting against the members and supporters of the organisation,” read a statement issued to the media by the outfit.

Also readWhat is PFI, how it’s ‘linked’ to banned terror outfit SIMI & why it’s on every agency’s hit list

‘Terror funding, promoting enmity on social media’

According to NIA sources, however, the arrests were made based on “evidence and inputs” that the organisation is involved in “terror funding, terror activities and promoting disharmony through social media”.

“The accused who have been arrested are also involved in acts preparatory to the commission of terrorist acts using weapons, with an intention to strike terror in the minds of the general public. These accused not only provided training in carrying out terrorist attacks, but also promoted disharmony in society through social media and other platforms,” an NIA source said.

In a statement released after the raids, the NIA alleged that PFI has been involved in many “violent acts” including “chopping off the hand of a college professor, cold-blooded killings of persons associated with organisations espousing the other faiths, collection of explosives to target prominent people and places, support to Islamic State and destruction of public property,” which “have had a demonstrative effect of striking terror in the minds of the citizens”.

Talking to ThePrint, a PFI member who did not wish to be identified said, “NIA and ED action on us is an obvious witch hunt for eliminating voices of dissent. It is going to happen to all who oppose this anti-democratic regime.”

The PFI emerged from the National Democratic Front (NDF), which was formed in 1993 in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition in the previous while.

While its bastion is in Kerala, the organisation has expanded its base across the country and, according to the NIA sources, has a presence in almost 23 states. The PFI calls itself a “neo-social movement” with a vision to empower all marginalised sections in India.

One of the earliest accusations against the PFI was that the organisation is an offshoot of the Students Islamic Movement of India — an outfit allegedly involved in several terror attacks, including the series of blasts in Mumbai between 2002 and 2003.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

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