The NIA has arrested key terror suspect Haidar Ali and three associates for last year’s serial blasts in Bodh Gaya and at Narendra Modi’s rally venue in Patna. Counter-terror sources told HT Modi was the target of this group with links to the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi) and that Haidar was also in Varanasi exploring the possibility of striking at the BJP strongman during his election campaign there.
National Investigation Agency sleuths picked up Haidar, 25 — who may have ties with some elements of al Qaeda, according to counter-terror officials — along with Mojibullah Ansari, Numan Ansari and a minor accused whose name is being withheld from Ranchi and Daltonganj in Jharkhand on Tuesday night.
“Haidar is associated with proscribed terror outfit Simi. He allegedly raised a group of young jehadis from Bihar and Jharkhand to first execute the blasts at the Buddhist shrine in Bodh Gaya in July 2013 and then to target Modi’s Patna rally in October. He was spotted in Varanasi at the time of elections by counter-terror sleuths and it is understood he was looking to target Modi again,” said an official privy to initial interrogation details.
While five persons were injured in Bodh Gaya, seven were killed and many injured in Patna.
“We believe Haidar himself planted the IEDs (improvised explosive devices). In the Bodh Gaya operation, he was disguised as a monk but left his clothes outside the shrine. We took DNA samples from those clothes and will match it with his DNA, conclusively proving the case against him,” said a senior NIA official.
After the Gaya blasts, Haidar reportedly fled to Raipur to his associate Umer Siddiqui, who was later arrested by the Chhattisgarh Police. “Siddiqui allegedly gave Haidar the idea of targeting Modi. But after conducting a recce of Modi’s rallies in Kanpur and Akbarpur in UP, Haidar found it difficult to target Modi. Therefore, he decided to plant IEDs at the Patna rally venue to set off a stampede and at the railway station to target those coming for the rally,” the official said.
“We have unravelled the entire conspiracy. However, further interrogation of the accused will be done to obtain more information,” said NIA chief Sharad Kumar.
Haidar is being interrogated by a joint team of intelligence and NIA officials.
Counter-terror officials also suspect Haidar sent a letter in Hindi to the Press Information Bureau office in Patna claiming the Indian Islamic Wing of al Qaeda had carried out the Gaya blasts.