ATS arrests man who trained Nalasopara arms haul accused

ByCharul Shah and Manish K Pathak, Mumbai
Jan 24, 2020 12:00 AM IST

A 34-year-old man, who allegedly trained the accused in the 2018 Nalasopara arms haul case, was arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) from West Bengal.

HT Image
HT Image

Pratap Hazra was arrested from his residence in Usthi in South 24 Parganas district on January 20, officials said. Hazra was produced in court on Thursday and has been remanded in police custody till January 30.

According to ATS officers, Hazra played a major role in assembling bombs and providing pistols to the accused. He also trained the accused in assembling bombs.

“Hazra had brought one of his aides to Nalasopara, who was also an expert in assembling bombs and helped Hazra in the training. Hazra’s associate is still wanted,” said an ATS officer, requesting anonymity.

Twelve people — Sharad Kalaskar,25; Vaibhav Raut,44; Sudhanwa Gondhlekar,39; Shrikant Pangarkar,40; Avinash Pawar,30; Leeladhar Ukhirde, 32; Vasudeo Suryawanshi, 19; Suchit Kumar Rangswamy, 37; Bharat Kurne, 37; Amol Kale, 34; Amit Baddi, 27 and Ganesh Dasharath Miskin, 28 — were charge-sheeted by the ATS in December 2018 for plotting a terror attack and possessing arms in huge quantity. Some of these accused have also been booked by other agencies in the murders of journalist Gauri Lankesh, rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi.

The ATS said the accused were members of Hindutva organisations Sanathan Sanstha, Hindu Janjagruti, among others.

“They had drawn their motivation of working towards the establishment of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ as explained in the book, Kshatra Dharma Sadhana, which was published by Sanathan Sanstha. They had conspired to form a terrorist gang of youths with a similar mindset to work towards undermining the unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of the country,” ATS had stated in its charge sheet.

The arrests were made in August 2018 after the ATS found that the accused had planned to target the Sunburn music festival in Pune, and that the group had planned to use country bombs, petrol bombs and indulge in heavy stone hurling to “scare followers of Western music”.

The ATS in a raid at the residence of Vaibhav Raut had found 20 crude bombs, two gelatin sheets, a note on how to prepare bombs, one six-volt battery, a few loose wires, transistors and glue from them. Several raw materials to make more bombs and detonators were also seized.

Eleven country-made pistols with magazines, one air gun, 10 pistol barrels, six pistol magazines, six partially made pistol bodies, three partially made magazines, seven partially made pistol slides, 16 relay switches, six number plates for vehicles and an explosive-making handbook. The police also found one trigger mechanism, springs of different lengths, knives, six number plates of vehicles, relay switch circuit drawings, and several printouts about explosives and mobile switches.

Another search at Raut’s place saw officials recover five country pistols, three incomplete pistols, 11 9mm cartridges, 30 7.65 cartridges, scores of loose parts of firearms such as springs and triggers.

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