NIA arrests two Bengal residents in Kerala in Bodh Gaya blast case

The National Investigation Agency arrested two West Bengal residents in Kerala for allegedly planting three IEDs at the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya this January, when the Dalai Lama was visiting the Buddhist shrine.

india Updated: Aug 05, 2018 23:54 IST
Rajesh Ahuja
Rajesh Ahuja
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
National Investigation Agency,Bodh gaya blasts,Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh
NIA officials said initial interrogation of the two arrested suggested that they belonged to Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a terror outfit active in the border areas of India and Bangladesh.(AFP/File Photo)

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested two West Bengal residents in Kerala for allegedly planting three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya this January, when the Dalai Lama was visiting the Buddhist shrine, officials familiar with the development said.

NIA officials said the initial interrogation of the two suggested that they belonged to Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a terrorist outfit active in the border areas of India and Bangladesh. Investigators said the IEDs had been planted as revenge for alleged atrocities committed against Rohingyas in Myanmar.

The role of few Bangladeshi nationals is also suspected in the case and the agency is looking for them, the NIA officials added.

“We have arrested Murshidabad resident Abdul Karim and Birbhum native Mustafizur Rehman on charges of placing the IEDs in Bodh Gaya on January 19 this year. They were picked up from one of the Bengali colonies in Malappuram in Kerala. Both the accused are being brought to Patna for a court appearance. We will seek their remand further interrogation,” said a senior NIA official.

“The two people arrested were part of the group of around half-a-dozen JMB men who planted the IEDs. Their associates were involved in the Burdwan incident of 2014, when an accidental blast revealed the presence of a huge JMB network in the border region of Bengal. We have reason to believe that a wanted accused in the Burdwan case is the mastermind of the January Bodh Gaya incident,” said the official, who added that NIA had earlier arrested three other people in the case.

The Mahabodhi temple is one of the holiest places of pilgrimage for Buddhists. It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site. The incident in January was not the first time that militants targeted the temple. In July 2013, more than a dozen IEDs were planted in and around the Mahabodhi temple — 10 went off, causing injuries to five people.

“On January 19, three powerful IEDs with 5-10 kg of explosives were planted in the temple — one of them where food was being cooked. The arrested accused have told us that this area was deliberately chosen because there were gas cylinders there. If the IED had gone off, the cylinders too would have exploded.The second IED was placed at one of the entry gates again to target to those who would have tried to leave the temple after the first blast,” said another NIA official.

But the first IED, kept near the cooking area, caught fire due to a malfunction and was detected. The police was called, and during searches of the temple complex, two more unexploded IEDs were recovered.

Following the 2013 blasts, it was decided that the security of Mahabodhi temple would be handed over to the CISF. “But even after five years, a final decision is yet to be taken. A CISF team had visited the site in 2013 for a resource requirement review. The matter is pending over who will foot the bill for CISF protection,” said a Home ministry official.

First Published: Aug 05, 2018 23:49 IST