Asim Umar, al-Qaeda terrorist from India who had no digital footprint

India Today

Born Sana-ul Haque, Asim Umar was possibly the highest ranked terrorist with Indian roots. He was the chief of al-Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), a terror outfit that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had formed in September 2014 to take jihadi terrorism to India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Sana-ul Haque aka Asim Umar was the chief of the AQIS since its inception five years go. He was among the top leaders of al-Qaeda and was killed in a joint US-Afghan raid on a Taliban hideout in Musa Qala district of Helmand province of Afghanistan. He was killed on September 23, according to the Afghan national directorate of security.

His killing is being seen as a big breakthrough in the fight against terror. His identification had been fiercely protected by al-Qaeda. Asim Umar did not have any known digital footprint. He did not release any taped message nor was he photographed.

Asim Umar's identity as Sana-ul Haque became public following arrests of suspected al-Qaeda operatives Mohmmad Asif and Abdul Rehman by the Delhi Police. Asif is a resident of Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh - around 150 km from New Delhi. Rehman is an Odisha-based cleric. Both had links with the Deoband seminary.

Asif and Rehman told interrogators last year that Asim Umar was a resident of Sabhal and was originally named Sana-ul Haque. This was a major breakthrough for international security and intelligence agencies who had suspected that the AQIS chief could be an India-born terrorist.

The arrests helped security agencies prepare a career sketch of the AQIS chief. Designated as a global terrorist by the US, Asim Umar was in early 40s and had been living in Pakistan for years.

The AQIS leader had graduated from the Darul Uloom seminary in Deoband. Later, he travelled to Pakistan in mid-1990s, severing ties with his family, the arrested al-Qaeda suspects told the police.

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