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India terror suspects said to have plotted attack on Mumbai Chabad House

Two Islamic terror suspects detained in India in recent days were plotting to carry out a series of bombings and had carried out surveillance of the Chabad House in Mumbai, the scene of a deadly attack 15 years ago, Indian media reported Monday.

The reports, quoting sources in the Maharastra state Anti-Terrorism Squad, said that during an ongoing probe into a local Islamist terror group known as Al-Sufa, two men were arrested over the weekend in the city of Pune.

They were found to be in possession of explosives, drone equipment, laptops, and incriminating books written in Arabic. Among the documents found on a phone were pictures of the Chabad House in Mumbai and its GPS coordinates, the reports said.

Seven people were killed by gunmen at Nariman Chabad House in 2008, including emissaries Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg — part of several attacks on Mumbai sites over four days by an Islamist Pakistani group. In total, 166 people were killed and hundreds injured.

Israel’s Channel 12 news reported that Israeli intelligence cooperated in the probe leading to the arrest of the two men and that, in coordination with local authorities, security at the Jewish site had been stepped up.

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The report said the investigation was looking at a possible link between the suspects and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

However, Indian media reports said the Al-Sufa group, which emerged in 2015, is most likely linked to jihadist groups in Pakistan.

The ongoing probe into Al-Sufa has so far focused on plots by the group to kill prominent Hindu leaders and politicians.

The two men, identified as Mohammed Imran, 23, and Mohammed Yunus Saki, 24, both from the town of Ratlam in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, were apprehended while trying to steal a motorcycle.

Mohammed Yunus Saki (L) and Mohammed Imran, suspected of plotting terror attacks in Mumbai (Courtesy)

Police later found that they had been living in a tent in the jungle outside Pune, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) from Mumbai, while trying to avoid capture. There they had been experimenting with building and detonating bombs, the reports said.

Apart from the 2008 Chabad attack, there have been several terror attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets in India.

In 2021, a blast outside the Israeli embassy in New Delhi damaged cars but caused no injuries, in an attack India has said was carried out by the Quds Force branch of Iran’s IRCG.

A letter found close to the scene of the blast was a death threat to the Israeli ambassador that warned he was constantly being watched and vowed to avenge the deaths of three “martyrs”: Qassem Soleimani, the IRGC commander who was killed in a January 2020 United States drone strike; Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a top Iraqi militia commander who was killed along with Soleimani; and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s nuclear program, killed in a November 2020 attack Tehran has blamed on Israel.

Police cordon off an area at a street after an explosion near the Israeli embassy in New Delhi on January 29, 2021. (Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)

In February 2012, the wife of the Israeli military attaché was injured in a bomb attack on her car in New Delhi. Indian police concluded that Iran was behind that attack too.

It was part of a series of attempted attacks against Israeli targets around the world attributed to Iran during that period. The same day as the 2012 blast, a bomb was discovered on an Israeli diplomat’s car in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

The next day, three Iranians accidentally blew up their house in Thailand. The men, who were never charged with terrorism, were freed in 2020 as Iran released Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was imprisoned for more than two years on spying charges.