The National Investigation Agency (NIA) said on Saturday nine al Qaeda terrorists planning attacks in several places in the country, including the National Capital Region (NCR), were arrested after simultaneous raids in locations in Kerala and West Bengal, officials said on Saturday.
All the nine operatives arrested from Kerala's Ernakulam and West Bengal's Murshidabad are linked to a terror plot targeting Kochi, Delhi and Mumbai, according to NIA officials. Their targets included the Kochi naval base and shipyard, they said, adding that weapons and bomb-making material were also seized from the men.
Six of them were arrested from Murshidabad and three from Ernakulam were planning single wolf attacks as human bombs, officials said.
"NIA had learnt about an inter-state module of Al-Qaeda operatives at various locations in India including West-Bengal and Kerala. The group was planning to undertake terrorist attacks at vital installations in India with an aim to kill innocent people and strike terror in their minds," the agency said in a statement.
The agency has registered a case and initiated an investigation.
"As per the preliminary investigation, these individuals were radicalised by Pakistan-based Al-Qaeda terrorists on social media and were motivated to undertake attacks at multiple places including the National Capital Region. For this purpose, the module was actively indulging in fundraising and a few members of the gang were planning to travel to New Delhi to procure arms and ammunition. These arrests have pre-empted possible terrorist attacks in various parts of the country," it added.
It added that a large quantity of incriminating material including "digital devices, documents, jihadi literature, sharp weapons, country-made firearms, a locally fabricated body armour, articles and literature used for making home-made explosive devices" have been seized from their possession.
NIA is looking into whether any locals supported these operatives and is collecting details from their encrypted Telegram service.
The three arrested in Kerala are also Bengalis but settled among migrant labourers. The raids by NIA are underway in Ernakulam and Murshidabad. More arrests are likely, said people who are part of the investigation.
Kerala police were put on high alert following the arrests and are keeping a close tab on migrant workers' camps, officials said. In Kerala, there is an estimated 25 lakh workforce from other states mainly engaged in construction, small scale units and hotels.
The arrested men will be produced before courts in Kerala and West Bengal for police custody and further investigation, the agency said.