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Varanasi blasts: Probe leads to Bangladesh

An Indian cleric publicly confessed his involvement and that of a Bangladeshi Islamist group in the terror strikes.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 22:49 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

An Indian cleric on Wednesday publicly confessed his involvement and of a Bangladeshi Islamist group in last month's terrorist strikes in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi that killed at least 20 people.

The sensational disclosure was made at a press conference called by the Uttar Pradesh Police who announced the arrest of the cleric and five others for the March 7 Varanasi killings.

The six, arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force, alleged the hand of the Bangladesh militant organisation Harkat-ul-Jihad Al Islami, which the cleric said was linked to Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

While Waliullah, an imam in Phoolpur town of Allahabad district and the alleged mastermind, was picked up March 26, his confessions led to the five others on Wednesday from Sarojini Nagar locality in this state capital.

Weapons and explosives seized from them included an AK-47 rifle with a magazine containing 27 bullets, 15 grenades, nine kg of RDX and other plastic explosives with 10 detonators, officials here said.

The 32-year-old imam said the five had been sent by him to Bangladesh for arms training.

The blasts, he added, were carried out by three militants from the Harkat-ul-Jihad, with which he said he was closely associated.

"They were specially detailed for the blasts and have gone back to Bangladesh," he said, admitting his involvement in the blasts that left 13 dead at Varanasi's Sankat Mochan Temple and seven at the railway station.

Waliullah said he provided shelter to the three Bangladeshi militants, took them around to the sites of the explosions for a reconnaissance trip and got them to buy three pressure cookers that were used as killer bombs.

"They came to me on March 3 and I provided them a room to stay just across my home in Phoolpur. They undertook two trips with me to Varanasi," he stated.

"Finally, on March 7 (when the blast took place), the three men left Phoolpur very early in the morning by train to Varanasi after which they never came back to me. They were scheduled to go back to Bangladesh."

Waliullah admitted going to Bangladesh sometime in 2003, but claimed his plans to go to Pakistan could not materialise because of "some trouble at the Pakistan end".

"It was in Bangladesh that the Harkat-ul-Jihad chief Asad Ullah nominated me as area commander of the group for Uttar Pradesh," Waliullah said.

"Subsequently, in 2004, I sent these five young men to Bangladesh from where Asad Ullah forwarded them over to Pakistan to attend a 28-day ISI training camp," he said.

He confessed to having been inspired by the taped discourses of Maulana Azhar Mahmood, the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief who was released following the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane in Kandahar in 1999.

Referring to the three men who allegedly carried out the blasts, Senior Superintendent of Police SK Bhagat said: "Waliullah was known to the three Bangladeshi militants as they had all received their Islamic schooling (at India's well-known Islamic institution) in Deoband in Uttar Pradesh."

First Published: Apr 05, 2006 17:29 IST