August 4, 2023 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 509

Islamic Terror Suspects Arrested In India Carried Out Reconnaissance On Mumbai's Jewish Community Center Chabad House – Police Investigate Links To Islamic State Khurasan Province (ISKP)

August 4, 2023 | By Tufail Ahmad*
India | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 509

The Chabad House of Mumbai, a major Jewish community center that was one of the targets of the November 26, 2008 terror attacks, was on the radar of two Islamic State (ISIS) terror suspects arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India. Chabad House was renamed the Nariman Light House on the 10th anniversary of the 2008 attacks.

The two suspects, Mohammad Imran aka Yusuf Khan and Mohammad Yunus aka Mohammad Yakub Saki, who were arrested in the city of Pune on July 18, 2023, belonged to Al-Sufa or SUFA, which is believed to be an offshoot of the Islamic State's Khurasan Province (ISKP), and they wanted, according to a media report that quoted intelligence sources, to carry out a "much bigger attack than the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks."[1] A third suspect, Shahnawaz Alam, is on the run after the duo's arrest, though a person has been detained for helping him.

Mohammad Yunus (left) and Mohammad Imran (image: Twitter)

These arrests are in addition to four arrests made earlier on July 3, 2023. Probing an ISIS-inspired cell, the NIA had searched five locations in the cities of Mumbai, Pune, and Thane in the state of Maharashtra and taken four people into custody. According to reports in Indian media, the four ISIS suspects were: Tabish Nasir Siddiqui from Mumbai, Abu Nusaiba aka Zubair Noor Muhammad Shaikh from Pune, and Sharjeel Shaikh Zulfiqar Ali Barodwala from Thane.[2] Indian media reported that on July 27 the NIA had arrested a fifth person in the Kondhwa area of Pune – an anaesthesiologist named Dr. Adnan Ali Sarkar – in connection with the cell.[3]

Two of the five accused are engineers from whom the NIA seized 500 GB of data. "The data contains literature about how to make bombs, Google map images, literature for causing disharmony and brainwashing people, and several YouTube links. Among this data, various drone images, Google images, and links to locations were also found," a media report said, noting that the material was sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) for investigation.[4]

The duo Mohammad Imran aka Yusuf Khan and Mohammad Yunus aka Mohammad Yakub Saki, though arrested in Pune, come from the town of Ratlam in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. According to a report by the Hindustan Times daily, they had fled Ratlam after learning that "their names cropped up in the investigation in the terror case in which some suspected members of the Al-Sufa outfit were apprehended" by a police team from Rajasthan state over a terror plot in that state.[5]

Mohammad Imran aka Yusuf Khan and Mohammad Yunus aka Mohammad Yakub Saki had stayed in Mumbai before moving to Pune. So, there are two terror cells: the Al-Sufa cell, which was plotting a terror attack in Rajasthan state, and a second, which comprises the duo arrested from Pune, but both are linked to Ratlam.

During their stay in Mumbai, the duo carried out reconnaissance of important locations in the financial capital, including Naval Helipad near Colaba slum area and the Chabad House. "They wanted to attack hydroelectric power projects" and had taken photos of the Colaba area where the Chabad House is located, according to a report.[6] Some media reports said, "Google images of Chabad House, Colaba... were retrieved from [the] two terror suspects...."[7]

Dr. Adnan Ali Sarkar, an anaesthesiologist, was arrested on terror charges (image: Twitter)

Due to the prevalence of antisemitism among the educated religious class of Muslims in South Asian countries, jihadi organizations and newly radicalized Muslims often select Jewish symbols, centers, and synagogues as their targets. Following the busting of this terror cell, police in Mumbai have increased security for the Chabad House, while a mock security drill was also conducted in the area.[8]

Most of the reports published by Indian media on this issue are based on intelligence agency sources, with almost no independent investigation by journalists that could reveal the trajectories of their radicalization. However, the mentions of SUFA or Al-Sufa and its links to the Islamic State Khurasan Province (ISKP) will need further investigation by the security agencies. At present, it does not appear that ISIS media or ISKP-related chatter has indicated anything about Al-Sufa.

India, with its 1.4 billion inhabitants, is a diverse society, and religious tensions have been part of its past and present and led to its partition in 1947. Those arrested are educated and young – in their twenties, an age group in which jihadi groups reach out to find potential recruits. The challenge for intelligence agencies and police forces is to upgrade their surveillance and monitoring capabilities while ensuring that no innocent is harmed, while the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will need to demonstrably implement his slogan of "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas [All Together, Development For All]," especially in delivering justice and enforcing the of rule of law.

* Tufail Ahmad is Senior Fellow for the MEMRI Islamism and Counter-Radicalization Initiative.


[1] (India), August 1, 2023.

[2] Roznama Ummat (Pakistan), July 28, 2023; (India), August 1, 2023.

[3] (India), July 27, 2023.

[4] (India), August 1, 2023.

[5] (India), July 30, 2023.

[6] (India), August 1, 2023.

[7] (India), July 30, 2023.

[8] (India), July 29, 2023.

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