A Karachi-based Fake Indian Currency Note (FICN) smuggling kingpin, who is also a known agent of Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has emerged as a pivot to the conspiracy to derail trains in India by using local criminals, sources associated with the probe told HT.
A multi-agency probe into three incidents - recovery of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) on Raxual - Sitamarhi railway track near Ghorasahan (October 1, 2016),derailment of the Indore-Patna Express near Kanpur last November that killed 148 passengers and derailment of Sealdah-Ajmer Express in December 2016 that injured more than 40 passengers - is underway and it has thrown up some startling facts.
Saturday’s derailment of Hirakhand Express is also being checked to see whether it was also an act of sabotage. A team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) reached the site of the accident Monday to gather evidence of possible sabotage.
“Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), the country’s external intelligence agency, has informed the government that a Karachi-based FICN kingpin Shafi Shaikh was in regular touch with Nepalese national Shamsul Hoda who in turn hired criminals for subversive activities,” said a central counter terror official who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to media.
Hoda is believed to be in Dubai now.
The official added that it was Hoda who contracted a Nepalese criminal Brij Kishore Giri for subversive activities in India. Giri’s bank accounts have been found to be unusually flush with money to the tune Rs 30 lakh.
Giri further sub-contracted the job to local criminals in Bihar’s districts along the Nepalese border.
Giri was arrested in Nepal in the first week of this month on the charges of murdering two Indians - Arun Ram and Deepak Ram - who worked for him. The two were murdered in the last week of December 2016. Giri had tried to escape but was shot in the leg.
“He is being treated in a hospital in Kathmandu and Indian sleuths are waiting to question him. But the Nepal police have told the Indian agencies that Giri’s phone call records show his regular interactions with Hoda. The money flow between Hoda and Giri is being looked into. Giri has also talked about toppling the Indore-Patna express,” said the official.
The official further said Arun Ram and Deepak Ram were involved in planting the IED in Ghorasahan.
“As per our information, Arun and Deepak along with another local criminal Umashankar Patel had gone to plant to the IED but it was detected and defused. They had been paid Rs 3 lakh by Giri and he was angry at their failure,” says East Champaran Superintendent of Police Jitendra Rana who was instrumental in arrest of Patel with two others - Moti Paswan and Mukesh Rai - in Raxual following the arrest of Giri in Nepal.
According to Bihar police sources Umashankar Patel told investigators that when Giri started threatening him after their failure at Ghorasahan, he recorded his conversations on his mobile phone.
“In the conversations, recovered from Patel’s phone, Giri is heard threatening him to return his money as they could not do the job,” said a Bihar police investigator who refused to be identified.
Many such conversations were found recorded in Patel’s phone. They are being scrutinised.
Another piece of evidence that nails the gang at least for the Ghorasahan incident, the Nepal police have found videos of murders of Arun Ram and Deepak Ram that Giri sent to Shamsul
Hoda as proof of their killing.
Sources in the Bihar police say, following the failure at Ghorasahan, Giri didn’t use Patel for his other hits.
“For his next operation, Giri used Moti Paswan and others. It was Paswan who first told the Bihar police investigators that he had gone to Kanpur for the derailment of the Indore-Patna Express train,” said the Bihar police investigator quoted above.
Investigators say, according to the confession of Paswan, they again used pressure cooker-based IED in Kanpur incident and probably were also carrying a gas-cutter in a bag.
“The IEDs used by them was not a timer-based but a wired one in which one has to press the switch to blast the IED from a distance. Maoists have been using such IEDs for many years.
What gives credence to Moti’s confession is fact that he was earlier associated with Maoists also. But it is quite possible that they might have done something with the track also with the gas-cutter as their October 1 operation with the IED only was failure,” added the investigator.
The NIA has been asked to take over the probe into the Ghorasahan and with that they will look into the two incidents of derailment in Kanpur also.
R&AW has reported linkages of Shamsul Hoda to the national capital also.
Hoda’s nephew Zia-ul Haq is being interrogated by the Delhi Police’s special cell.
“Haq had floated a travel agency with his associates in Delhi. He managed to illegally procure an Indian passport also. We suspect that his travel agency was a front to bring terror recruits to India,” said a Delhi-based investigator involved in the probe.
The investigator added that the R&AW suspects that Pakistan is now trying to send India its terror recruits by providing them fake Afghanistan identification documents and passports. A large number of Afghan nationals keep coming to India given the friendly ties between Kabul and New Delhi.
“It is quite possible that Haq’s travel agency was to be used for such activities. This aspect is being probed now by the Delhi police special cell,” said the investigator.