“Let’s all feel the pain together” read an e-mail delivered to media organisations minutes after Tuesday’s bomb blast in Varanasi.
Reportedly, the email was sent by the Indian Mujahideen (IM), a splinter of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Suspicion therefore falls on a doctor and a pharmacist, both trying to direct the operations of the organisation from outside the country since the Batla House encounter of New Delhi in September 2008.
Mohammad Shahnawaz (27), the doctor, and Asadullah Akhtar alias Asadullah Khan (25), the pharmacist, allegedly planned the attack from Sharjah and Dubai, respectively, where they are based. They are both from east UP’s Azamgarh. Shahnawaz, a Unani doctor, is the elder brother of Mohammed Saif, who was arrested in the Batla House encounter.
Shahnawaz was allegedly involved in the serial blasts of Delhi in 2005 and after the blasts he stayed in Lucknow from 2006 to 2008. Sources said Shahnawaz did his Unani course in Bihar’s Siwan district. Later, he shifted base to Lucknow and completed internship at the Balrampur government hospital between January 2007 and February 2008.
A doctor who had done his internship with Shahnawaz said the latter’s activity was suspicious and he used to keep himself aloof even during internship. An anti-terror squad official said Shahnawaz’s name cropped up after the arrest of Saif.
The Delhi police raided his native place in Azamgarh’s Saraimeer locality but were unable to find him. A reward of Rs 1 lakh has been announced on Shahnawaz’s head.
Akhtar also carries a Rs 1 lakh reward and fled the country in October 2008. He has been linked to the 2008 Delhi serial blasts along with eight other young persons in Azamgarh. Asadullah has a bachelor’s degree in pharma from Integral University, Lucknow.
His father Dr Javed Akhtar, who is a leading orthopaedic surgeon of Azamgarh, had contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections from the area under the banner of the Ulema Council, formed to get “justice for Muslim youths framed in terrorist activities”.