Pakistani extremist linked to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks has reportedly been arrested in Austria on suspicion of planning attacks in Europe.
The suspect is one of two men arrested in Salzburg posing as refugees on suspicion of planning attacks for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil). The 34-year-old man, who has not previously been identified, was named as Muhammad Ghani Usman by the Sunday Times.
He is said to be a former bombmaker for Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT), the Pakistani group behind the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, in which 164 people were killed.
Unnamed sources close to a multinational investigation said “dozens” of Isil operatives entered Europe posing as asylum-seekers and are still at large.
Austrian prosecutors have confirmed that two men arrested on December 10 in Salzburg entered Europe posing as Syrian refugees last October. They arrived in Greece on the same boat as two of those involved in last November’s Paris attacks.
The second man was named as Adel Haddadi, a 28-year-old Algerian, and claimed investigators believe they were members of one of a number of Isil “strike teams” who infiltrated Europe under cover of the migrant crisis.
The 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which teams of gunmen took over two hotels and opened fire on busy streets and cafes, are widely considered a model for recent terror attacks in Europe.
Isil exploiting migrant routes to smuggle jihadists back to Britain using fake documents
LeT, the Pakistani group behind the Mumbai atrocities, is locked in a bitter rivalry with Isil. Last November, days after the Paris attacks, it issued a statement condemning Isil as a “product of anti-Islamic Western countries”.
Isil countered by denouncing LeT as a puppet of the “apostate Pakistani army”. It is not clear if Mr Ghani, the arrested man, is thought to have defected from the Pakistani group to Isil. LeT is dedicated to the “liberation” of Kashmir from Indian rule and the establishment of an Islamic state.
The report also linked Mr Ghani to Lashkar-e Jhangvi (LeJ), a separate Pakistani militant group known to be active in Syria. LeJ is a Sunni extremist group which shares a virulent hatred of Shia Muslims with Isil. Most of its attacks in Pakistan have been targetted at the country’s Shia minority. LeJ militants are believed to have fought in Syria and Iraq, and the group is suspected of Isil links.