It was a bad day at work for the National Investigation Agency. A ‘witness’ in the Patna serial blasts fled from the custody of the country’s top anti-terror body only to alert the alleged mastermind it was closing in on.
The escape of Mehre Alam, who the NIA was counting on to lead them to Hyder Ali, a senior Indian Mujahideen man who allegedly planned the serial blasts with the outfit’s ‘operations head’ Tehseen Akhtar, is likely to embarrass the NIA.
Ali, also known as Abdullah, hails from Aurangabad in Bihar but moved to Darbhanga in 2010 where the then IM chief Yasin Bhatkal was setting up a module.
With Akhtar, Ali worked with the Darbhanga module, which is believed to have carried out most of the blasts that followed the Batla House encounter, before being asked to set up the Ranchi cell. He was living in Line Mohalla, Doranda in Ranchi and trained a group of eight men to make bombs and prepare for the blasts.
Six men from Ranchi set off a series of bombs that rocked the rally venue of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and nearby areas, the police have said. Six people died in the blasts.
Intelligence and NIA officials say they have enough leads to conclude that it was Ali who led the Sunday terror attack. The NIA, which was handed over the Patna case on Wednesday, has been looking for Ali since 2012 when his name surfaced during investigations into the Darbhanga module of the IM.
Ali used to frequently interact with Alam in Ranchi and sometimes stay with him, an intelligence official familiar with the probe told HT. “So, the NIA had called him in as a witness to try and lure Ali out,” said the officer, who didn't want to be name because of the sensitivity involved in the probe.
“He told the NIA that Ali was hiding in Mirpur village of Muzaffarpur district and our team was conducting raids there when Alam gave them the slip.”
NIA officials confirmed to HT that Ali was their target.
The NIA issued a statement in the evening confirming Alam was not a suspect but a “witness”. Alam told the NIA team that Ali was training the Ranchi module for months, sources said.
He was in touch with Akhtar and the two were planning to create modules in other states so that the IM could recover from Bhatkal’s arrest. Bhatkal was arrested on August 28.
The NIA, Bihar and UP police denied reports that Alam was nabbed in Kanpur in the evening.
The NIA was set up within weeks of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, with the mandate to bring terrorists to justice. It is the only agency that can take over terrorism cases in any part of the country without the concurrence of the state government concerned.
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