A computer programmer employed by Yahoo in south India is allegedly behind emails put out by the country's most-wanted Islamic terrorist group, Islamic Mujahideen, which claimed responsibility for coordinated bomb blasts in three Indian cities this summer that left more than 120 dead, police said yesterday.
Investigators said Mohammed Mansoor Peerbhoy, 31, was the head of a "media terror cell" made up of "highly qualified, computer-savvy people belonging to good and educated families" who had drafted emails sent just before or after the blasts in Delhi, Ahmedabad in Gujarat and Jaipur in Rajasthan.
"The Indian Mujahideen started a media wing with software engineers," Rakesh Maria, joint commissioner of Mumbai police, told reporters. "They had the technical knowledge to know to send out messages just before the blasts and after the blasts took place."
Peerbhoy was one of 15 men arrested by police in Mumbai in connection with an alleged plan to bomb the city during the current holiday season.
Peerbhoy's role - along with two other software engineers - is alleged to have been to hack into unsecured wireless internet sites in Mumbai to send emails that spoke of "blowing apart your tourism structure ... and demolishing your [Hindu] faith in the dirty mud".
Police said Peerbhoy speaks good English, works with Yahoo! as a principal software engineer and takes home 1.9m rupees a year (£22,600). He lives in Pune, a city in southern India known for its IT companies, and visited the US for work several times.
He makes for an unlikely terror suspect. His father built a business as a wholesale fruit supplier to the Indian army. One brother is a doctor in the UK, another is an architect.
According to the Hindu newspaper, Peerbhoy "radicalised himself" after a pilgrimage to Mecca in 2004. Other reports say he was groomed by Islamists after taking Arabic lessons.
However in interviews with local media, Peerbhoy's family said he had been falsely implicated, calling his arrest an attempt to "defame the Muslim community".
Speaking to the Times of India, a family member who did not want to be identified said: "We don't know how he has been targeted and implicated in the case. We know that he will not do anything wrong ... Mohammed is a highly qualified person and we are a very respectable family."
Others said the rash of announcements about "Islamist masterminds" had more to do with political pressures than justice. "The conviction rate is less than 5% in these so-called cases," said Tarun Tejpal of Tehelka magazine.
"We simply ask, where is the evidence in these cases? What I think is happening is that we have a 24-hour hysterical media which forces politicians and police to act or to show they are acting."
Mumbai police had originally said that a man called Subhan Qureshi, also known as Tauqeer, was the most wanted man in the country for sending the emails. On Monday Maria said Tauqeer was a "media creation".
Yahoo said the company "was concerned about these events and will fully cooperate with the law enforcement agencies as required".
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