NEW DELHI •Indian counter-terrorism police have arrested a group of suspected Islamist radicals and seized bomb-making materials in a series of nationwide raids ahead of next week's Republic Day celebrations, officials said.
A Home Ministry official on Friday said the National Investigation Agency (NIA), a federal police unit that probes terror offences, arrested five suspects, while nine more men are being interrogated over their links to a local militant leader after the overnight raids in four different states on Thursday night.
"We have recovered material used to make IEDs from two locations but no explosives have been seized," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters. An IED refers to an improvised explosive device.
"They were part of the online radicalised group who were in touch with a militant leader for some time, and were planning to procure arms," the official said.
He identified the leader as a member of the militant Indian Mujahideen, a home-grown extremist group that has been blamed for multiple bomb attacks.
The exact whereabouts of the leader, whose name was given only as Yusuf, are unknown to investigators, the official said.
He refuted media reports that said the suspects were part of a cell operated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group but said some of the suspects were trying to organise arms training within India.
The suspects, who are from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh states, will be brought to the capital, New Delhi, for further questioning.
"We have been told that six terror suspects... have been arrested after raids since Thursday night," Mr G. Parameshwara, home minister in the Karnataka state government, told reporters in the southern city of Bangalore.
Security has been increased in large parts of India ahead of the Republic Day celebrations on Tuesday, when the country marks the anniversary of its democratic Constitution taking effect in 1950.
Thousands of armed policemen have been deployed across New Delhi, where French President Francois Hollande, as part of a three-day visit, will be the guest of honour at a military parade on Tuesday.
France said security will be high on the agenda after the deadly terror attacks in Paris in November last year, which evoked memories of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that left 166 people dead.