Don break in Dubai
Ansari arrested before flight to Islamabad
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New Delhi, Feb. 9: 

If Emirates can, why can’t Pak?

High on its diplomatic success in getting Aftab Ansari deported from Dubai, India today piled pressure on Pakistan to establish a link between the terrorist and the Inter-Services Intelligence. Delhi said Islamabad should follow the example set by the United Arab Emirates and act on its list of 20.

The deportation of Ansari, prime accused in the attack outside Calcutta’s American Center, almost coincided with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s first state visit to the US.

Delhi also underscored the claim that Ansari had a Pakistani passport and was in touch with Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Omar Sheikh, main suspect behind the kidnap of US journalist Daniel Pearl and one of the three terrorists freed during the 1999 hostage-swap deal in Kandahar.

The first announcement of the breakthrough in getting Ansari came from Atal Bihari Vajpayee during an election rally in Meerut this afternoon. The Prime Minister, who sent a personal letter to the Crown Prince of Dubai and defence minister of UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Makhtoom, looked happy.

R.M. Abhyankar, special secretary (east) in the foreign ministry, said the UAE gesture was “unprecedented”. “Their arrest has been made possible due to the close cooperation received from Dubai authorities in tracing and apprehending them,” he said. “At the time of apprehension, Ansari was in possession of Pakistani travel documents.”

He added: “We expect Pakistan to act like the way the UAE did in handing over Indian nationals named on the list of 20 fugitives, criminals and terrorists given to it.”

India and UAE have an extradition treaty, which they signed in 1999 and ratified a year later. But what South Block appreciated was the way the authorities decided to cut through red-tape and the time-consuming process of extradition and agreed to deport the duo.

In 1984, too, UAE had cooperated with India when it deported hijackers of an Indian Airlines aircraft. But after 18 years, this gesture from Dubai impressed the Indian leadership. “It is an exceptional gesture. Deportation is the sovereign right of a country. But they have gone ahead (and) done it,” Abhyankar said at a news conference this evening.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh also thanked the Crown Prince, a statement issued by his ministry said.

UAE authorities, often criticised for dragging their feet over terrorists and criminals functioning from its soil, decided to act after days of hectic negotiations with Indian officials. A CBI team had camped in Dubai, armed with evidence to implicate both Ansari and Sharma. India’s ambassador to Abu Dhabi K.C. Singh was also involved in the parleys.

Indian officials said the two sides were in constant touch on the issue of counter-terrorism, particularly about the bases and shelters Indian criminals found in UAE over the years. The interactions intensified after the September 11 strikes on the US.

The officials said Ansari admitted to calling up the CID in Calcutta to claim responsibility for the American Center attack. According to them, there were four reasons behind the strike, which killed five policemen.

Ansari, they said, wanted to avenge attacks on his friends and fellow criminals by Indian police and also to target an American installation. Another reason was he hoped to catapult himself to the status of Dawood Ibrahim and other mafia dons by the daring assault. It was also timed in such a way that it coincided with FBI director Robert Mueller’s visit to India.


New Delhi, Feb. 9: 
Bearded and slightly built, the don who took “full responsibility” for the Calcutta strike stood this evening in Delhi, dressed in a cream-coloured jacket and trussed up in chains.

Aftab Ansari, alias Farhan Malik, has become India’s biggest trophy yet in its transnational hunt for fugitives with his unpublicised arrest and dramatic deportation from Dubai.

The CBI said the suspected mastermind of the attack outside the American Center had been detained by authorities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) when he was about to board a flight to Islamabad from Dubai on January 23, a day after the Calcutta raid in which five policemen were killed.

Ansari, who had called The Telegraph a few hours after the Calcutta strike to claim responsibility, was flown to Delhi on a special flight this evening. An associate, Raju Sharma, alias Rajinder, who helped Ansari set up his operations in Dubai, was also brought in along with the don.

Both the security and diplomatic establishments sought to hammer home Ansari’s Pakistan “connection”.

CBI chief P.C. Sharma showed reporters copies of a Pakistani passport, bearing the number J-872142, issued on February 12, 2001, and valid till February 2006. The passport, issued from Lahore, was in the name of Safeer Mohammad Rana, which the CBI said, was a fictitious name of Ansari.

Sharma said “pin-pointed” evidence, which included a map showing Ansari’s house in Rawalpindi, provided by India made the Dubai arrest possible.

Sharma said Ansari had fled to Pakistan after committing crimes in India and later went to Dubai.

He said the CBI took the assistance of the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation “whenever it was necessary” for the operation. The CBI had handed over the Dubai telephone number of Ansari to the FBI for verification there.

The breakthrough was announced on a day Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who had launched a high-decibel campaign against terrorism after the Calcutta strike, called on Union home minister L.K. Advani in Delhi.

“When the incident happened in Calcutta, from that time I have been saying this was organised by a small group. The main suspect was in Dubai and all those days I was persuading the Centre to get him extradited to our country,” Bhattacharjee said here tonight.

Ansari and his associate were brought to Delhi by a team of CBI officials, led by joint director Neeraj Kumar, and will be produced before a duty magistrate tomorrow.

The CBI has informed the director general of West Bengal police. A team from Calcutta is expected to be in Delhi to examine Ansari.

“He (Ansari) is now in our custody. And interrogation has commenced,” Sharma said. “He is a very good catch of its own kind achieved for the first time through international cooperation. We hope to get out of him a lot of information about the crimes he had committed in India and his linkages both within and outside the country.”

Sharma said the agency’s joint director, along with the Indian mission in Dubai, played a crucial role in clarifying to the UAE authorities that Ansari was an Indian citizen who had acquired a Pakistani passport.

The evidence was used to talk out the issue with the Dubai authorities and a CBI officer was first sent there to secure Ansari’s deportation.

Asked whether Ansari’s arrest had brightened the prospects of apprehending other fugitives like Dawood Ibrahim, Sharma said: “With this type of international cooperation, we hope even other criminals will be extradited to India.”


New Delhi, Feb. 9: 
The breakthrough in Dubai was not broadcast from the seat of power in Delhi but from a political platform in Uttar Pradesh by the Prime Minister.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee chose an election rally in Meerut to first announce the news of the arrest, signalling that his party will not spare any effort to turn it into a windfall in the face of the strong anti-incumbency factor in Uttar Pradesh.

Vajpayee told the rally that the UAE government sided with India in the extradition of Aftab Ansari. “The government there in the Gulf has sided with us and that person is being brought to Delhi,” he said without naming Ansari.

Vajpayee said he (Ansari) had fled to Pakistan and from there he took refuge in the Gulf, where he was apprehended.

The BJP had been banking on the possibility of Pervez Musharraf handing over some of the suspects on the list of 20 criminals given to Pakistan.

However, little headway has been made on that front. Besides, public response to the BJP’s rallies in Uttar Pradesh has been flagging despite the focus on cross-border terrorism, the ban on the Students’ Islamic Movement of India and subtle references to the Ram temple.

The Dubai deportation has given a fresh lease of life to the BJP campaign rooted in the “nationalist” issue. An upbeat Vajpayee and L.K. Advani today seized the opportunity and issued a strong warning to Pakistan.

At the Meerut meeting, Vajpayee spoke at length on his efforts to normalise ties between the two countries but how the neighbour was all along preparing to “stab us in the back”. Still India has risen above enmity, he said, but warned the neighbour that a befitting reply awaited Pakistan if it chose to go for any misadventure.

Advani sharpened his attack on Pakistan, saying India wanted to avoid war but this should not be seen as a sign of weakness.

If war is unavoidable, then Pakistan would be taught such a lesson that it would forget the name of Kashmir, he told a rally in Ghaziabad.

Cross-border terrorism is India’s problem and the country is competent to tackle it without outside help, Advani said. “The problem of cross-border terrorism in Kashmir will not be allowed to burden the next generation but will be solved by the BJP soon,” he said.

The home minister lashed out at the Opposition parties for playing “vote bank” politics and urged them to sink their differences over terrorism and fight the scourge unitedly.

Justifying Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s concern over the proliferation of madarsas in West Bengal, the home minister rued that the chief minister’s anxiety had drawn flak not only from the Congress, but even his party colleagues.

“Like West Bengal, it is the duty of all states to think of national security and I seek the cooperation of all parties and the people in this regard,” Advani said.

Accusing Islamabad of channeling arms and ammunition to the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Prime Minister said it was high time Pakistan stopped aiding and abetting terrorism in India.

It had been proved beyond doubt that the five persons who attacked Parliament on December 13 were Pakistanis, he added.


Calcutta, Feb. 9: 
It was the same story all over again for Calcutta police.

At 5.30 pm today, half-an-hour after Aftab Ansari had been brought to Delhi by the CBI, the reaction of the city police commissioner, Sujoy Chakraborty, was: “We have not been informed about his return. All that we know is what the TV news is broadcasting.”

The reaction was much the same as that on the morning of January 28 when Mohammad Idris, who pulled the trigger on the policemen outside the American Center, and his associate Salim were shot dead in a joint operation by the Delhi and Hazaribagh police in Jharkhand.

That day, too, the mandarins at Lalbazar had to rely on their TV sets to be informed about the encounter and then send teams to Hazaribagh. Chakraborty’s response then was: “We were not informed that the Delhi police were planning such an encounter. We learnt of it only after it had happened.”

Some officers expressed surprise at being kept in the dark about operations of Central agencies.

Another befuddling point: Why were some Calcutta police officials unaware of the arrest, even though half the city had heard it on television?

A sample: “Give me half-an-hour and then get back to me. Let me check out on it,” said DC, DD (special), Piyush Pandey, when asked about Ansari’s arrest. “But this information was long overdue.”

DC, DD, Soumen Mitra was indignant when he was quizzed about the arrest: “Ask Delhi, why are you asking me? I have no such information.”

Mitra, incidentally, is the principal investigator of the case and heads six probe teams.

Even DIG, CID, V.V. Thambi, who had been investigating the Khadim’s kidnap suspected to be masterminded by Ansari, expressed surprise on being informed of the arrest. “Has he been caught?” he asked. “I will check on it now.”

Mitra said he will leave for Delhi tomorrow and work out ways to get Ansari to the city for interrogation. “Our case is the most important of all the cases that Ansari is wanted in,” he said.

“So, we hope that we will be given the first crack at interrogating him,” Mitra added.

Ansari is wanted in a number of cases stretching from Gujarat to Uttar Pradesh to Delhi and West Bengal. The police here feel that the Central investigating agencies will try and keep him for as long as they can.

The state CID, whose investigations into the Khadim’s kidnap case brought Ansari into focus, also has a strong claim on interrogating him.

“It is our investigation into the Roy Burman kidnap case that actually established that Ansari has a criminal network in India,” a CID officer said. “We know the most about his operations and therefore we have first right to cross-examine him,” he added.




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Relative humidity

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