Investigations into Wednesday’s serial blasts suffered its first major setback as the special team of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and Mumbai police’s crime branch officers met with little success during their visit to Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh on Friday.
Armed with a list of wanted Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives, the agencies had hoped for a breakthrough at Azamgarh. “We are back to square one,” said an officer requesting anonymity.
The police have pined their hopes on the CCTV footage obtained from Opera House and Zaveri Bazaar.
Azamgarh has been the prime focus since it was found that Mohammed Sadiq Israr Sheikh, one of the co-founders of IM, had indoctrinated youth from this region. Sadiq was arrested in 2008.
Two key IM operatives, Salman Ahmed and Shahzad Ahmad, were arrested from Uttar Pradesh in 2010. Salman told his investigators in detail about Lashkar-e-Taiba’s plans to launch fresh attacks in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
Salman, who had obtained a Nepali passport under the name of Mohammed Fahad Ansari, was trained at explosives in Pakistan in December 2009.
Shahzad had revealed information about 14 absconding IM operatives.
Apart from Ariz Khan, some other IM operatives the agencies are hunting for include Mirza Shahdab Baig, Mohammed Sajid, Mohammed Khalid, Asadullah Akhtar, Abu Rashid and Sharfuddin. The key in the lot are Baig and Akhtar who scouted for new recruits in Uttar Pradesh. Abu Rashid featured in the Mumbai police’s list after his role was ascertained in the serial train blasts.
The ATS and crime branch are trying to find the new IM operatives by questioning the ones arrested in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. The ATS of Madhya Pradesh had arrested Abu Faizal, a resident of Mumbai, and three others on June 11.
The Gujarat police had arrested IM operative Danish Riyaz on June 28 for his alleged role in Ahmedabad blasts in 2008.