Indian police arrest key terror suspect

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian police on Sunday said they had arrested a key terror suspect of the home-grown Islamist militant group the Indian Mujahideen, blamed for a string of deadly attacks across the country in recent years.

The arrest comes as India is on high security alert ahead of next month's general election with police saying they had prevented a new terrorist strike.

Ziaur Rehman, popularly known by his alias Waqas, was arrested along with three of his aides in the western Indian state of Rajasthan on Saturday, special police commissioner S. N. Srivastava said at a news conference in New Delhi.

"Waqas is a Pakistani national and he was planning to carry out a terror attack with the help of his associates. But a spectacular terrorist strike has been averted with his arrest," the police commissioner said.

Waqas, 24, is accused of conducting a series of bombings across the country, including the 2011 blasts in Mumbai that killed at least 21 people.

During searches of the hideouts of the arrested men, police recovered detonators, electronic circuits, timers and a large quantity of explosives.

Police were able to track Waqas' movements with the help of clues provided by his aide and Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal, who was arrested last August.

Bhatkal, lodged in Delhi's high-security Tihar jail, is on trial after being charged with various offences including that of waging war against India.

The Indian Mujahideen came to public attention in November 2007 following serial blasts in the state of Uttar Pradesh and is blamed for multiple attacks across the country in which hundreds of people have been killed.

The group is thought to head a network of homegrown militant groups, with some analysts believing it has links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed militant organisations.