The first Indian Muslim to be associated with global terror network al Qaeda, who was arrested in France two weeks ago, is a mechanical engineer from south India, Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram announced on Monday.
Mohammad Niaz, who hails from Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, had been “radicalised” very early in life and had been in touch with the proscribed Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi), Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi. “He joined Simi based in Tamil Nadu at the age of 21 and had been on the scanner of Indian intelligence agencies before he was arrested (in France),” he said. Simi is also allegedly allied with the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which the Indian government believes is responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Niaz was arrested at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on May 10 upon arrival from Algeria, where he had developed links with an al Qaeda franchise. “It is reported that Niaz has been arrested for links with the terror group that is recruiting people for jihad in the Pakistan and Afghanistan region,” Chidambaram said. “The inputs that the government has on him indicate that he is a trained activist with a militant bent of mind,” he said.
Niaz is among seven suspected terrorists held by French authorities earlier this month. But the French government has not linked them to any specific plan to carry out attacks in that country. French Interior Minister Claude Gueant described Niaz as a man with a high level of technical training.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2011.