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The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) on Sunday nabbed key Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Afzal Mutalib Usmani, who had escaped from a Mumbai court in September.
Usmani was rearrested while he was trying to cross the Indo-Nepal border near Rupaidiha railway station in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday morning.
Javed Noor-ul Hasan Khan, a 19-year-old nephew of Usmani, was also arrested for aiding and abetting Usmani’s escape.
Usmani (38), an accused in the 2008 Ahmedabad and Surat blast cases, escaped from the sessions court premises near Kalaghoda in the high-security South Mumbai district on September 20.
It is suspected that Usmani had escaped during lunch hours when the police escorts took a group of prisoners to the court canteen.
“Usmani later went to Azad Nagar slums in Dharavi to meet his nephew Javed. He took Rs 5,000 from Javed, with whom he escaped from the city,” said Rakesh Maria, additional director general of police, ATS.
“Usmani then walked down the Dharavi-Sion road along with Javed and got his beard shaved at a salon. He then took BEST bus number 365 to Santacruz.”
Usmani and his nephew then took an autorickshaw to Borivali, from where he took a bus to Surat, said Maria.
The IM operative then boarded a train to Indore, and later visited Bhopal and Jabalpur before reaching Satera village in Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh.
Usmani stayed at his niece’s residence at Satera village and was in the process of getting himself a new identity under the name of Wasim Safdar Khan, said ATS officials.
The officials also seized an application to obtain a bogus driving license from Usmani.
The IM operative was a hotelier in the western suburbs of Mumbai and is believed to have handled finances for the banned outfit.
Usmani is among the 21 members of terrorist outfit Indian Mujahideen who were arrested by the crime branch soon after the blasts in Ahmedabad and Surat in 2008.
The group, suspected to be behind a series of blasts in various Indian cities since 2005, had allegedly used unsecured WiFi locations in Mumbai to send threatening emails minutes before the explosions took place at Ahmedabad and Surat in 2008.
According to the investigating agency, Usmani had stolen four vehicles that were used as car bombs in the July 27 serial bombings in Gujarat in 2008.
He had allegedly stolen two cars from Navi Mumbai, and planted explosives at LG Hospital and at a market place in Ahmedabad.
Investigators say he delivered the other two cars to Qayamuddin Kapadia, a Vadodara-based graphics artist, who was the key operative of the module which attempted to execute the bombings in Surat in July.
Both cars were fitted with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which failed to detonate due to failure of the integrated circuit-based timing devices.
Usmani, who lived at Shivaji Nagar in Mumbai, was a mid-level organised crime figure before he came in touch with Aftab Ansari, who was among the chief architects of the homegrown IM, said a police official.
Usmani had moved to Mumbai from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh and handled several money-laundering and extortion operations for Ansari.
The money was used for funding the IM, said the police official who did not want to be named.