Mumbai: The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Wednesday arrested nine ISIS ‘suspects’ for questioning from Mumbra in neighbouring Thane district and Aurangabad after receiving specific inputs. The breakthrough comes a few days ahead of the Republic Day 2019 celebrations.

The agency carried out an operation in both districts and picked up the men, an official was quoted as saying. He added, “They were on the ATS radar for a few days for their activities. Questioning is underway.”

Acting on a tip-off, the Maharashtra ATS carried our searches during the intervening night and early morning on Wednesday at five different locations in Mumbra in Thane and Aurangabad.

Post the searches in Amrut Nagar, Kausa, Moti Baug and Almas Colony areas in Thane’s Mumbra township and in Aurangabad’s Kaisar Colony, Rahat Colony and Damdi Mahal areas, nine persons were arrested.

Certain chemicals, powder, mobile phones, hard drives SIM cards, acid bottle, sharp knives etc. were seized during the searches. Meanwhile, a case has been registered under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967. Further investigation is underway in connection to the matter.

In a similar incident, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in December last year had busted an ISIS-inspired terror group planning suicide attacks and serial blasts targeting politicians and government installations in Delhi and parts of north India and arrested 10 suspects.

The searches were carried out across 17 locations in Delhi and Meerut, Lucknow and Amroha in Uttar Pradesh. During the operation, a huge cache of handmade weapons, including a yet to be tested rocket launcher, material for suicide vests, 12 locally made pistols, hundreds of live rounds of bullets, 100 mobiles and 135 SIM cards were recovered. Besides, Rs 7.5 lakh in cash, 100 alarm clocks to be used as timer devices for bombs and 25 kilograms of bomb making ingredients — potassium nitrate, potassium chlorate, sugar paste and sulphur – were also recovered.

The probe agency, following the searches, rounded up 16 persons of the group ‘Harkat ul Harb e Islam’, which loosely translates into war for the cause of Islam.

Of the 16, ten were arrested by the NIA. Out of the 10, five were arrested from Amroha and five from Seelampur and Jafrabad localities in north east Delhi.

Giving details of the initial investigation by the agency, an official had said that the suspects had done a reconnaissance of vital government installations and planned to target political personalities and other important persons.