NIA links accused Riaz with Islamic State sleeper cell

Investigations reveal intelligence failure even as accused’s links with Pakistan-based handlers become clear.

Investigation into the execution-style killing of Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur on Tuesday by National Investigation Agency (NIA) has on Thursday revealed that Riaz Akhtari, one of the accused, has links with Al Sufa, a sleeper cell of Islamic State. Riaz is alleged to have been working for Al Sufa for the past many years in Udaipur area. Earlier he was working under Mujib.

Uncanny and chilling details emerging from investigations into the cold-blooded slaying point to the failure of intelligence agencies to fairly assess the situation on the ground and take pre-emptive measures.

Rajasthan Police had on 30 March this year seized 12 kg of explosives from three alleged terrorists, who had planned to carry out serial bomb blasts in Jaipur. Riaz, who is a resident of Tonk, is behind bars for his involvement in the conspiracy.

Riaz and Ghouse Mohammad on Tuesday reportedly killed Lal in his tailoring shop to avenge insult to Islam after Lal supported Nupur Sharma in a social media post on her controversial

remark on Prophet Muhammad. The police have arrested five persons in this connection including Riaz and Ghouse.

Investigators have also traced at least 10 phone numbers with their locations both in Pakistan and India. Ghouse and Riaz were in constant touch on those numbers. The police had on Wednesday revealed that Ghouse was associated with Pakistan-based Islamic organization Dawat-e-Islami for the past 10 years. Ghouse had been to Pakistan in 2014, stayed there for 45 days and received training.

According to the investigators, Ghouse had also formed two groups on WhatsApp, Allah Ke Bande and Rasoolallah, which he used to circulate incendiary videos to brainwash Muslim youths. Sources in the investigating agencies said that Riaz and Ghouse had got sharp-edged weapons made from SK Engineering. The prime accused had shot videos in the factory premises and were in touch with their Pakistan handlers before and after the murder. After killing Lal, both tried to make good their escape riding a motor bike bearing the number 2611, the day Mumbai was attacked in 2008 by Pakistan-based terrorists.

NIA investigators on Thursday got transit remand of Riaz and Ghouse from a court in Udaipur amid tight security.

It is apparent from investigation so far that state intelligence agencies failed to act in a timely manner. As the investigators have now found Riaz’s connection with Mujib, who is in jail, the question is why their association was not established earlier and acted upon. Why the state intelligence under the command of ADG Umesh Mishra failed in their job. When, during the course of press briefing at police headquarters on Wednesday, the officials were asked questions in this regard, the media was told that they have input but they cannot disclose it. Both Ghouse and Riaz were spreading hate through videos on WhatsApp and even issued threats on 17 June, but the intelligence agencies failed to act.

There have been communal clashes in four districts in the past three months. But intelligence agencies failed to act.

Meanwhile, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot visited the family members of Lal in Udaipur, even as the state government announced a cash compensation of Rs. 50 lakh to the bereaved family. The government also promised jobs to two of his children on compassionate ground.