16 years on, accused in 2002 BEST bus blast in Mumbai suburb arrested
Blast had killed 2 and injured 49 people; Irfan Qureshi, the accused, was found in Aurangabad by the anti-terrorism squadUpdated: May 08, 2018 10:33 IST
The crime branch on Monday arrested Irfan Ahmed Gulam Ahmed Qureshi, 47, wanted in connection with a blast in a BEST bus in Ghatkopar in 2002 that left two people dead and 49 injured. Qureshi was produced in court on Monday and has been remanded in police custody till May 14.
The Aurangabad resident left for Muscat in September 30, 2002. The police are now checking if the alleged member of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) was involved in any terrorist activity abroad.
KK Patel, assistant commissioner of police, Gujarat anti-terrorism squad (ATS), and his team had visited Aurangabad in search of Sayyed Jabbiuddin Jakhiuddin Ansari, a Beed resident who is wanted in the 2006 Gujarat blasts case. There, the team found Qureshi and brought him to Usmanapura police station on May 5. On realising that Qureshi was wanted in the 2002 case, they handed him over to unit 10 of the Mumbai police crime branch.
The Mumbai crime branch produced him before a special Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) court.
Chief public prosecutor Lata Chheda sought Qureshi’s custody on the grounds that the confession of one of the accused, Mohmad Altaf, brought his role in the case to light. Chheda claimed records show Qureshi was a part of SIMI. The prosecution said the accused had opened a firm, which was used as front to carry out SIMI-related work.
Qureshi’s lawyers Tahira Shaikh and Yakub Shaikh said the accused was not in India when the blast took place. “The firm was shut much before the blast. Qureshi, a teacher, left India in September 2002, while the blast took place in December 2002,” they said.
The lawyers said after Qureshi’s name cropped up in the investigation, the family approached the POTA review committee, which gave him a clean chit. The court, however, observed the order was passed before the investigation was complete.
The Mumbai police had originally listed 29 accused in the case, but could arrest only 19. Of the 19, court discharged nine for lack of evidence, one died in Hyderabad and another, Khwaja Yunus, died in police custody. Remaining eight arrested accused were acquitted by a special court in 2005 owing to lack of evidence.