NEW DELHI  - Indian police announced Tuesday the arrest of the alleged head of militant group the Indian Mujahideen, blamed for a string of deadly attacks including one at a rally by election frontrunner Narendra Modi last year.

Specialist police based in New Delhi arrested Tehseen Akhtar, 23, alias Monu, one of India’s most wanted men, days after the home-grown militant group’s bomb maker and other members were also taken into custody. The top officer of Delhi’s anti-terror cell, S. N. Srivastava, said police found Akhtar at a village near the porous border with Nepal following tip offs from his fellow militants arrested on the weekend.

“We worked on specific tip offs and on that basis we sent a strong team ... and we were successful. We captured Tehseen Monu from Panitanki (village),” Srivastava said at a press conference late Tuesday. “He will be in Delhi by late evening,” Srivastava said.

Srivastava said Akhtar was responsible for setting up many “modules” of the Indian Mujahideen around the country, describing his arrest as a “big catch”. Akhtar had also helped set up an arms factory in Delhi, he said. With the country on high security alert for national elections starting next month, local media said the arrest was a major breakthrough.

The banned Indian Mujahideen came to public attention in November 2007 following serial blasts in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is accused of a number of attacks since including in Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi and Pune that have killed hundreds.

The group was also blamed for a series of small bomb blasts that killed six people at a rally by Hindu hardliner Modi, the main opposition’s prime ministerial candidate, in October last year.

Although a favourite of India’s business community and leading in opinion polls, Modi is despised by many Muslims. He was chief minister of western Gujarat in 2002 when the state was engulfed by communal riots that left more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead.

Police said Akhtar had been in charge of the Indian Mujahideen since last August when its co-founder and the nation’s most wanted man, Yasin Bhatkal, was arrested also near the Nepal border.

The National Investigation Agency had earlier offered a cash reward of one million rupees ($16,500) for any information on Akhtar, who is believed to be the son of a pharmacist from the eastern state of Bihar.

Akhtar’s arrest comes after Delhi police seized on the weekend suspected key member Ziaur Rehman, also known as Waqas, along with three of his aides in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.

Police said then that those four arrests helped prevent a major militant strike on Indian soil ahead of the elections, which start on April 7 and will be held in nine phases with results expected on May 16.

Recruits are drawn to the message of fighting for India’s economically disadvantaged Muslims and avenging religious riots such as those in Gujarat in 2002, analysts say.