A dargah (shrine) in Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh, the Bara Imambara in Lucknow and a leading Shia cleric were among the targets of the three men who allegedly set off a bomb in the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train on March 7, The Indian Express has reported.
The newspaper quoted official sources as saying that Syed Mir Husain, one of the three arrested from Pipariya in Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh shortly after the blast in the train, told NIA interrogators that the group had earlier wanted to attack the Waris Ali Shah dargah in Barabanki and had spent an entire day studying security arrangements and the movement of pilgrims at the dargah. But heavy security forced the group to abandon the plan, Husain told the NIA.
The Bara Imambara in Lucknow and Shia cleric Maulana Salman Hussaini Nadvi were also on their hit list. Hussain told the NIA that they had surveyed the cleric’s house, monitored his movements and took pictures of his house and two vehicles.
Husain, Mohammed Danish and Atif Muzaffar were arrested from Pipariya hours after the attack on the train. A fourth accomplice, Saifullah, was killed in a gunfight with the UP anti-terror squad at a house on the outskirts of Lucknow on the same day. On March 16, the NIA took over the probe into the train blast case. The NIA took into its custody three of the seven arrested so far. Husain, Atif and Danish are in NIA custody until March 27.
According to sources, Husain told the NIA that they surveyed several places in and around Lucknow to “fix the targets, to implement the sharia law, to have a jihad and to have bomb blasts and commit murder at fixed places” before “settling down in Arab or other countries”, The Indian Express report said.
NIA sources said Husain, Danish, Atif and Saifullah visited the Barabanki dargah in the first week of February and took photographs of the shrine. The accused are said to have identified four locations inside the dargah as “best places” for placing bombs because they always remained crowded. They had also monitored the crowds at the shrine on Jummerat and made videos of the flow of pilgrims, sources said.
The accused found that the maximum rush at the shrine was from 9 am to 3.30 pm but there was heavy police deployment throughout the day which meant they could not plant any bomb there, sources said.
The accused also carried out a reconnaissance of the Bara Imambara in Lucknow and visited it on the last three Fridays of February. A large crowd gathers on Friday to pray there. The accused also took photographs of locations at the Imambara.