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Pandya ‘killer’ in CBI net

New Delhi, April 18: Asgar Ali is the “main killer” as he “pulled the trigger”, killing Haren Pandya in Ahmedabad last month, CBI director P.C. Sharma said.

A joint team of the CBI and Hyderabad police arrested Ali and his associates, M.A. Bari, Abdul Rauf and Mohammed Iftiqar, from Hyderabad yesterday.

They were flown to Delhi late last night in a special Border Security Force plane on a transit remand and will be produced before a Ahmedabad court on April 21. More arrests are likely to take place.

The CBI was apparently under tremendous pressure from deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani to crack the case, as the former Gujarat home minister came from his constituency.

Sharma visited Ahmedabad on April 9 to supervise the probe, which its special crime unit was conducting after the Gujarat government transferred the case to the agency on March 28. He also apprised Advani yesterday in North Block of the latest developments.

Sharma today said Ali was also involved in the March 11 attack on VHP leader Jagdish Tiwari. Although the CBI is not handling the case, sleuths today rounded up Saffi from Hyderabad on charges of attempts to murder Tiwari, he said. According to the CBI, Ali had plans to kill more than one public figure.

“The case dimensions have opened up to a large extent. The probe is still on and we have been able to gather much evidence connecting Ali and his associates with Pandya’s murder,” Sharma said. He refused to divulge details on the motive of the crime, the arrested persons’ precise role and the issue of a larger conspiracy, saying it would jeopardise the case.

Pandya had allegedly led a mob in the Godhra riots and, sources said, a possibility of revenge killing could not be ruled out.

The only thing Sharma emphasised was that 29-year-old Ali, who is well-versed in English, Hindi and Urdu, and his associates have a criminal background. Hyderabad police have registered cases against Ali.

The agency said Ali has admitted to taking training in Pakistan on how to use an improvised explosive device. He went to Pakistan before Pandya’s killing and was planning to flee there, Sharma said. Ali had moved from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad after the murder.

Ali’s links with militant outfits are also under the scanner. He is believed to have visited Kashmir to meet militants. The CBI has also sent sleuths to two other places he visited to get a larger picture of the conspiracy. It is also going through some documents recovered from those arrested.

The agency, however, has not yet recovered the revolver used in the murder. The director said the CBI would not have been able to crack this case in such a short time but for the cooperation from the Intelligence Bureau and Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat police.

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