NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian intelligence agencies have arrested one of the leaders of a domestic terror group blamed for a series of bombings in the nation’s cities, a top government official said Thursday.
Yasin Bhatkal was arrested Wednesday night on India’s eastern border with Nepal and he is being questioned by state police, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters. He did not give other details.
Police say Bhatkal is one of the founding leaders of the Indian Mujahideen, a group that has been linked to the banned Pakistan-based Islamist rebel group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has claimed responsibility for some previous terrorist attacks in India.
Ashok Karnik, a security expert, said Bhatkal’s arrest was a significant development as he could expose the terrorist network in the country.
The government outlawed the Indian Mujahideen in 2010 after it was suspected of involvement in an attack on a cafe popular with foreigners in the western Indian city of Pune in which 17 people died.
Indian authorities also have blamed the group for a bombing at a Bangalore cricket stadium that injured five people in 2010, a shooting and bombing attack outside a famous New Delhi mosque that injured two foreigners in 2010 and a dual bomb attack that killed 16 people outside a movie theater and a bus station in the southern city of Hyderabad in 2013.
Indian intelligence officials say the group arose out of Muslim Indian’s anger at Hindu extremists’ 1992 destruction of the 16th century Babri Mosque and the 2002 spasm of communal violence in the western state of Gujarat that killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.
Indian police believed they had eliminated the group after a series of raids in 2008, but subsequent attacks made it clear the Indian Mujahedeen had re-emerged.