Eight suspected members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) were killed by Madhya Pradesh police in an encounter on Monday, hours after they escaped from a high-security jail in Bhopal.
The operation took place at Acharpura village, about five kilometres north-west of Bhopal Central Jail. The eight men had broken out of jail around 2am on Monday after killing one guard and holding another hostage.
This was the second such jailbreak by members of the banned outfit in three years. Police said four of these eight men escaped from the Tantya Bheel Jail in the state’s Khandwa district on October 1, 2013.
Here’s what we know about them:
Mohammad Aqeel Khilji
Aqeel Khilji, a native of Ganesh Talai locality in Madhya Pradesh’s Khandwa, was arrested in 2012 from Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. Middle-aged Khilji is said to have played an integral role in forming the SIMI base in Khandwa district.
In 2011, 10 SIMI operatives were arrested from Khilji’s house in Khandwa. He was planning to assassinate prominent Bharatiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders.
A resident of Ganesh Talai in Khandwa district, Guddu was a close aide of self-styled SIMI MP chief Abu Faisal alias ‘Doctor’. He was accused in several terror-related cases including the 2009 triple murder of state anti-terrorism squad constable Sita Ram Yadav, a bank manager and a lawyer. He was also one of the accused in the 2008 Ahmadabad serial blast case.
He was involved in the murder of another ATS constable in Ratlam district in 2011. After escaping from Khandwa jail in October 2013, Guddu sustained severe burn injuries when a preparatory IED went off at their rented hideout in Bijnor district of west Uttar Pradesh in 2014. He was arrested along with his mother Najma Bi and three other aides from their hideout in Odisha’s Rourkela district in February 2016.
Zakir Hussain alias Vikki Don alias Vinay Kumar lived in a slum near Sales Tax colony in Khandwa. He was first held by the police in 2008 for allegedly procuring a fake SIM card and his association with SIMI. He was involved in a spate of bank robberies in Dewas, Katni and Itarsi districts of MP between 2008 and 2011. He was part of the team of SIMI operatives that looted 12 kg of gold from Manappuram Gold Finance Company in 2010 from Bhopal’s Jehangirabad area.
Hussain, who was in his 30s, was arrested with other SIMI operatives by MP ATS in 2011. He was among the 4 SIMI operatives who escaped from a Khandwa jail in October 2013. After escaping, Zakir was involved in the Rs 46-lakh heist from SBI branch in Karimnagar district of Telangana in February 2014. He was among the four SIMI operatives arrested from a hideout in Rourkela town.
Amjad Khan alias Pappu alias Umer was a native of Chira Khadan in Khandwa. Amjad along with Sheikh Mehboob was accused of attempting to murder BJP councillor Pramod Tiwari in Khandwa. The 27-year-old Amjad was arrested in June 2011 for allegedly being a part of 2010 robbery at an office of Manappuram Finance Ltd in Bhopal’s Jehangirabad area.
He was involved in bank robberies between 2008 and 2011 in MP. He was also among the seven SIMI operatives who escaped from the Khandwa jail in 2013. Amjad was among the four SIMI operatives arrested from Rourkela town in February 2016.
The brother of a former police constable, Saliq alias Sallu was a native of Gulshan Nagar in Khandwa. Saliq, a hardcore SIMI activist, had fled when police raided a house at Gulmohar Colony in Khandwa in 2011. After the SIMI men escaped from Khandwa jail, he had joined them during their hiding for over two years. He along with three other SIMI operatives, Zakir, Amjad, Mehboob and Mehboob’s mother Najma Bi was arrested from Rourkela in February 2016.
Mohammad Khalid Ahmad
A native of Sholapur district of Maharashtra, Khalid was arrested in December 2013 along with Khandwa jail breaker group’s head Abu Faisal alias ‘Doctor’ from Sendhwa town of MP’s Barwani district. His interrogation by MP ATS had revealed that he was plotting to kill former Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and his daughter.
MP police arrested Mujeeb Sheikh, an Indian Mujahideen operative, and seven other IM and SIMI members from Jabalpur in June 2011. Later, it came to the fore that he was an accused in the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blast case, planting of bombs in Surat and training of youth for jihadi activities.
After his arrest, a team from Ahmedabad crime branch visited MP to question him. Sheikh tipped off the police about Danish Riyaz, an IM operative, who had allegedly helped in sheltering the serial blast conspirators. It was on Sheikh’s information that the crime branch officers arrested Riyaz at Vadodara railway station.
Majid, an electrician from Mahidpur town in Ujjain district, was an expert in making rod-bombs. He later became a part of the SIMI sleeper cell allegedly involved in making and supplying bombs of different types. He was arrested in February 2014. Police also recovered five drums of explosives and gelatine rods in the operation.
The investigation into the cache of bombs recovered from Maharashtra’s Sholapur in December 2013 revealed that it was Majid who had made the bombs in Mahidpur town. After his arrest in the case, he was lodged in Bhopal’s Central Jail.