Eleven years before he was caught for planting a bomb in the Samjhauta Express, Rajendra Pehelwan alias Samandar had committed his first act of terror by shooting a nun in Madhya Pradesh in August 2001, sources in the National Investigation Agency have revealed. Later, he graduated to planting bombs at mosques and places frequented by Muslims.
“During his missions, Samandar would carry just four bullets. He considers himself an expert marksman, very sure of his shooting abilities. Samandar told interrogators that his first mission was executed in August 2001, when he and an associate, Lokesh Sharma, tried to murder a 30-year-old nun, Leena Vellampuniyel, of Nirmala Hospital in Chandera village, Ujjain. Though Sister Leena was shot in the jaw and was in a critical condition for a long time, she survived. The attack evoked a sharp reaction in Christian circles, with many missionary organisations placing the blame on militant Hindus. However, his deed remained undetected for 11 years,” said a source.
Sister Leena claimed that her attackers had come on two motorcycles, adding that Samandar and his associates used two-wheelers in many similar incidents. They killed a prime witness in the Piar Singh Ninama murder case in July 2008, an incident to which Ramesh Ninama was an eyewitness. Lokesh was arrested by the Madhya Pradesh police in the Ninama murder case.
“However, Samandar killed Ramesh before he could identify him as Piar Singh’s murderer. It also ensured bail for Lokesh in the case,” said an investigator.
Samandar and his group also shot at SAR Geelani in February 2005, seriously injuring him.