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Four accused also figured in Surat 2001 case, three were bailed out

Four accused also figured in Surat 2001 case, three were bailed out

Author: Syed Khalique Ahmed
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: August 18, 2008
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/350026.html

Introduction: Ahmedabad: Ten accused remanded to police custody; officer leading blasts probe had questioned Surat detainees in 2001

Four of the ten alleged SIMI activists arrested in connection with the July 26 Ahmedabad serial blasts - all were remanded to police custody for 14 days by an Ahmedabad metropolitan court today (nine were produced in court while Mufti Abu Bashir, the alleged mastermind who was brought from UP to Ahmedabad late Saturday night, was taken to the magistrate's residence late in the evening and the remand obtained) - also figured in a case registered against SIMI activists in Surat in 2001.

In fact, three of the four were even arrested in the Surat case and questioned by the same officer who is now one of the lead officers handling the serial blasts probe. Kept in jails for two years, they were subsequently released on bail.

After the ban on SIMI was imposed in September 2001, Sajid Mansuri, who was then the Gujarat zonal secretary of SIMI, organised an educational programme under the aegis of the All India Minority Education Front. Police raided the premises, arresting as many as 123 people. While Mansuri managed to evade the police (he was arrested from Bharuch a few days ago), Arif Kagdi, Shamsuddin Sheikh and Usman Agarbattiwala - now among the nine arrested in connection with the blasts - were among those held by the police.

Ashish Bhatia, who is principal investigator in the Ahmedabad blasts case, was Joint Commissioner of Police in Surat at that time and had interrogated the accused - he was not available for comments today. A criminal offence under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was registered against them, including Mansuri who was absconding. The accused were kept in Vadodara and Nadiad Central Jails and released on bail after two years.

That case is still under trial in Surat's metropolitan magistrate's court. Advocate Khalid Sheikh, who is defence counsel in the case, said that out of the 35 witnesses in the case, only eight have been cross-examined so far. The next hearing is scheduled for August 28.

These are the nine who have been arrested in the Ahmedabad blasts case:

oSajid Mansuri: A product of Tayyabi Madrasa in Zampa Bazar of Surat, he used to work as a recovery agent with the Mumbai-based Barkat Bank before the police crackdown on the Surat meet organised by him. While on the run, he stayed in Vadodara. He was arrested from Bharuch after the serial blasts in Ahmedabad. He is alleged to be the main link between the mastermind of the serial blasts and the executors.

oArif Kagdi: A former Gujarat zonal secretary of SIMI, Arif lived in Shahpur mohalla of Old Ahmedabad. He helped his father eke out a living by selling clothes. For the last few months, he had been teaching in a school in Juhapura. He was arrested in the Surat case.

oUsman Agarbattiwala: Was arrested in Surat case and kept in Vadodara Central Jail. While in jail, he studied and took the B.Com (First Year) examinations as a private candidate. He belongs to an educated, business family from Bijnore district of western Uttar Pradesh which settled in Vadodara four decades ago. His family lives in the Wadi area of Moghalwada.

oImran Shaikh: Came in contact with SIMI after the ban. His father is recovering from a bypass surgery. While Imran sold clothes from a handcart, his mother made kites to bring home some money. According to police, Imran's one-room apartment in Taiwada mohalla in Vadodara was used for assembling some of the bombs used in Ahmedabad.

oZahid Shaikh: Has been living on Sandhi Avenue near Vishala Circle on the Sarkhej Highway for a year with parents, wife, four-month-old son. Arrested for alleged conspiracy in the serial blasts. Runs a mobile shop at the Alishan Complex in Danilimda area. Has three sisters and a brother who is mentally challenged. Zahid studied upto Class VIII in an Islamic school.

oIqbal Sheikh: Very little is known about him. He used to live in Al-Aqsa Apartments opposite Khushlachand School in Bhoiwada in Vadodara. Ran a provision store on the ground floor of the building.

oShamsuddin Sheikh: A resident of Dariapur in Ahmedabad, he lived with his family in a one-room house opposite the Lokhandwala Hospital. After the ban on SIMI, he taught Arabic in a school in Bharuch for sometime. In Ahmedabad, he used to sell sewing threads.

oYunus Mansuri: A product of Goblej School in Kheda district, he lived in Bapunagar area and used to help out with the family business in Kalupur.

oGayasuddin Ansari: A resident of Gomtipur in Ahmedabad, he was an embroidery worker. He is said to have come in contact with SIMI after the ban.

The accused were produced in the Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate's court amid tight security. The Crime Branch sought 14 days remand to investigate in detail how and where was the conspiracy hatched, who were involved in it. Police also hope to find out who stole the cars which were used to plant the bombs, how were the explosives procured and linkages to other terror outfits. The police also will try to get details of terror training camps organised in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, information on agents who provided financial and logistic support to the outfit.

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