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Pensioners' paradise now a terror hideout

Pensioners' paradise now a terror hideout

Author: Abhay Vaidya & Siddhartha D Kashyap
Publication: The Times of India
Date: July 17, 2006

A striking instance of the changing face of terrorism in Maharashtra came to the fore in Pune in May 2003 when Anwar Ali, an Urdu lecturer at the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla, was arrested in connection with the 2003 Mulund blast in a Mumbai local train.

The 45-year-old ad hoc lecturer was no unemployed youth who had been lured with easy money into anti-national activities. He was a middle class person, whose alleged hob-nobbing with terrorists created shock waves not only in Pune but across Maharashtra.

A resident of Kondhwa, one of the new localities of Pune, Anwar Ali, the police said, had set up a pistol firing range at his residence. Anwar Ali was trained by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the use of pistols and AK-56 rifles, and had provided shelter to LeT and SIMI terrorists at his residence.

Notably, Anwar was arrested along with an MBA student, Atik Mulla, and Sadiq Khopoliwala, a former member of the banned SW. Yet another high-profile episode came to light exactly a year later, in June 2004, when Javed Sheikh, an alleged LeT operative, was killed, along with three others by the Gujarat police near Ahmedabad. Investigations revealed that Javed was a resident of Kalas-Dhanori, a Pune suburb.

The police, which until then had no clue about Javed's antecedents, carried out a probe only to find out that the LeT operative had made arrangements for a group of Kashmiris to stay in Kondhwa for a month.

Why did Pune-Once a pensioners' paradise-find itself on the terror map of the state? One explanation given by the police is Pune's proximity to Mumbai and the city's relatively low profile which makes it not just an ideal getaway but also a convenient hideout.

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