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Lynchpin aide in Dhantola dragnet

Nadia, March 24: The Criminal Investigation Department trailing Cheema Sardar, the fugitive leader of the gang involved in the Dhantola loot and rape case, today claimed a “significant progress in investigations’’ with the arrest of Sheikh Kaalia, another accused.

Officers tracked down Kaalia, “quite unexpectedly’’ in a hut in Gaadamara on the Nadia-North 24-Parganas border yesterday while following leads to trace Cheema. Investigations revealed that Kaalia had sheltered Cheema after he escaped from police custody last week.

Special superintendent of police, CID, Manoj Malaviya claimed that Kaalia’s arrest is “significant as he has provided vital leads to the case. We are specially taking care to ensure that Kaalia does not escape like Cheema”.

According to preliminary investigations, Cheema was with Kaalia the night before his arrest on Wednesday. Cheema was picked up from a hideout in Amdanga in North 24-Parganas.

Cheema knew that his close associate would stay in a house in Gaadamara. “He had headed straight for Kaalia’s hideout in Gaadamara covering about 5 km in the night after his escape,’’ a CID officer said.

After his arrest, Cheema was handcuffed and had a rope tied around his waist as he was brought for interrogation to the Ranaghat detective department inspector’s office.

He hit a guard of the National Volunteer Force and a sub-inspector with his handcuffs and ran away under the cover of darkness. Special superintendent of CID Ramphal Pawar rushed to the area to monitor investigations.

Sources in Nadia and North 24-Parganas tipped off sleuths that Cheema could have taken shelter in Kaalia’s house in Gaadamara. “During the course of investigations, we found that Kaalia was involved in the Dhantola looting and rape incident. We planned to storm his hut on Saturday night to catch him by surprise,’’ a senior CID officer said.

CID sleuths have found evidence in Kaalia’s house to indicate that Cheema had broken his handcuffs there. “But sleuths are not very sure as we have not found the broken handcuffs so far,’’ a sub-inspector of the Ranaghat DDI office said.

“Of course, there are tell-tale signs inside the room to confirm that Cheema was there and had left the place few hours before we zeroed in,’’ he added. “It was sheer luck that we managed to catch Kaalia.’’

Kaalia was produced in court and sent to police custody.

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