Post deadly Pulwama terror attack on February 14, Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) had carried out a recce of key government installations such as South Block and Central Secretariat in New Delhi. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) charge sheet on JeM case filed in September says the terror group intended to target Delhi-NCR region and carried out an extensive recce of areas like Delhi’s Civil Lines, BK Dutt Colony, Kashmere Gate, Lodhi Estate, Mandi House, Daryaganj as well as Ghaziabad.
The NIA investigation revealed new modus operandi of Pakistan-based terror operatives by use of "virtual numbers" to hide their identities as photo IDs were made mandatory in India for SIM cards.
Virtual mobile numbers work through a server for which users sign up by downloading an app on their smartphones. The number can then be used to sign up for services like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and email accounts.
NIA has revealed the information in a charge sheet filed before Delhi court on September 16 against alleged JeM members Sajjad Ahmad Khan, Tanvir Ahmad Ganie, Bilal Ahmad Mir and Muzzafar Ahmad Bhat. Sajjad was arrested by Delhi Police Special Cell in March from Old Delhi, following which three more terror operatives were arrested. The case was handed over to the NIA.
As per the NIA charge sheet, Bilal Ahmed volunteered to be the next suicide bomber in a terror attack. After viewing the video of Pulwama suicide bomber on February 14 itself, Sajjad had purportedly said that if such an attack was planned, then he should be considered as a fidayeen [suicide attacker] like Adil.
On February 15, at about 10.24 hours, Bilal requested Pulwama mastermind Mudassir Ahamad: Next main karuga insha allah’ [I will carry out the next suicide attack], the charge sheet mentions.
All the four accused were allegedly in regular touch with Mudassir Ahmad, the mastermind of the February 14 Pulwama attack which killed 40 CRPF soldiers. Ahmad was killed in an encounter by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Tral on March 10.
The NIA charge sheet elaborates how Ahmad, a JeM commander, stayed in touch with other members of the terror group and his handlers in Pakistan through virtual mobile numbers generated mostly in the US to allegedly plan attacks across India.
As per the NIA, Ahmad used two virtual mobile numbers (+1904606**** and +1904299****), both registered on messaging service WhatsApp, in the US to give directions to his associates.
The chargesheet further says that another key accused, Pakistan-based JeM terrorist Kari Mufti Yaseer, infiltrated to India a few months before the Pulwama attack to recruit, train and motivate Kashmiri boys to launch further attacks.
He too used a virtual mobile number (+181432****) through which he allegedly stayed in touch with Ahmad and Ganie. The NIA has retrieved all the contents from the virtual numbers and Text Now application.
Similarly, Khan created some Facebook accounts with IDs 'Harish Bin Khalid', 'RaHil', 'Netwon', an email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, for secret communication with his JeM associates.
The charge sheet mentions the messages NIA retrieved from phones and social media platforms revealed that Ahmad and other JeM members celebrated the Pulwama attack calling it 'Kashmir ki Eid'.
The NIA in its charge sheet said the terror module also watched Rajnath Singh, the then home minister, speak of giving befitting reply to Pakistan attacked operators for 14th February Pulwama terror attack.