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Saeed talent-scout label on catch

Saeed talent-scout label on catch

Author: Ananya Sengupta
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: June 6, 2009

Introduction: PC confirms Lashkar link

The 50year-old man arrested near the Qutab Minar yesterday is a key Lashkar-e-Toiba operative who worked under direct orders from outfit chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, home minister P. Chidambaram confirmed today.

Delhi police said Mohammad Umer Madni, a maulvi from Varanasi who had moved to Nepal 25 years ago, was a "talent-spotter" who was recruiting in India and passing money to Lashkar modules.

His arrest comes two days after a Pakistani court freed Hafiz, prime accused in the November Mumbai attacks, from house arrest.

"The man arrested in Delhi does have links with Hafiz Saeed," Chidambaram said. "The arrest is a measure of the good intelligence and investigative work done by our intelligence agencies and police."

Joint commissioner of police (JCP) P.N. Aggarwal said: "He is the country head of the Lashkar in Nepal. He met Saeed at least half-a-dozen times during trips to Pakistan."

A sessions court today remanded Madni in police custody till June 19. The short and stout man, wearing white kurta-pyjamas, stroked his beard casually as he was led into the court by 20-odd policemen.

Police sources said Madni had proved tough to crack, but eventually revealed his activities in India over the past 15 days, during which he visited Patna and Aligarh.

Madni had been in Delhi to pass on money to a Lashkar link, officers said. When arrested, he had $8000, Rs 50,000 in fake notes and 4,068 Nepalese rupees on him, as well as a Nepalese citizenship card and the bills of phone calls made to Pakistan and Nepal.

Police sources said the accused also carried a diary with mostly Urdu entries. Parts of it were in the "Matrix code", often used by militants. The diary allegedly contained the phone numbers and operation plans of top Lashkar operatives, as well as details of financial transactions Madni had carried out in the past six months.

Investigators have apparently been able to track his emails to the Lashkar leadership.

Sources suggested Madni may have come to Delhi to do the groundwork for a terror strike but in their official comments, the police denied this.

Madni has been booked for being a member of a banned organisation, carrying fake currency and waging war against India.

According to JCP Aggarwal, Madni, son of a madarsa teacher in Varanasi, had graduated as a maulvi from the town's Revari Talab in 1978. In 1983-84, he and his father shifted to Nepal.

Madni, who speaks fluent Hindi, Urdu, English, Bengali, Nepali and Arabic, began setting up madarsas across Nepal. In 1996, he came under the influence of the extremist ideology of the Markaz-Dawa-Wal-Irshad school, founded by Saeed in Muridke, near Lahore.

"He visited Lahore in 1997. The next year he took Daura-e-Aam (the 21-day basic combat course) and Daura-e-Khas (the three-month advanced course) training in Lashkar camps," Aggarwal said.

He said Madni had visited Pakistan every year from 1997 to 2008. Over the years, he allegedly sent at least 30 recruits to Pakistan for training, including Kamal Ansari, arrested in connection with the July 2006 Mumbai train blasts.

According to police sources, US spy agency CIA had last month told Indian intelligence agencies that a Pakistan-trained militant, Mohammad Umer, formerly of Bihar, was working as a Lashkar recruiter in Nepal. One of Madni's brothers - Qatar-based Hafiz Mohammed Zubair, 40 - too has been linked to the Lashkar.

Southern alert

Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were today put on alert after intelligence inputs warned of possible Lashkar strikes in southern cities, PTI reported.

Security was tightened at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota and a red alert sounded in Tirupati. Hyderabad had already been placed on alert yesterday after intelligence reports said three Lashkar terrorists aged around 30 had sneaked in.

The Lashkar is suspected to be planning retaliation following India's objections to the release of Saeed, officials said.

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