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Ayodhya catch has new claimant

Calcutta, Nov. 13: The “courier” is in custody and congratulations are due. But who caught Abdul Baqi Mandal, charged with helping the Ayodhya attackers sneak into the country'

Two days after Delhi police paraded Mandal as a prize catch trapped in a chase outside New Delhi railway station, officials of a central intelligence agency said they picked him up three months ago from a frontier pocket in Bengal.

Accounts by Mandal’s relatives at his home in Basirhat, 70 km from Calcutta, seemed to corroborate the time factor in the central agency’s version.

Romicha Bibi, Mandal’s sister in-law, said today he had last visited the Basirhat house about four months ago. “He simply vanished and we have not heard about him since then,” Bibi said.

However, Delhi police insisted that Mandal was arrested after a brief chase on Thursday. “The intelligence people can say anything they like, but we pounced on him the moment he stepped out of a train three days back,” said Karnail Singh, joint commissioner (special cell), Delhi police.

“We have arrested Mandal on the charge of helping militants involved in the aborted Ayodhya attack in July sneak into the country from Bangladesh. Besides, he is believed to be involved in helping several persons with terrorist links sneak out of the country,” added Singh.

The police version had another hole ' the name of the train on which Mandal was supposed to have reached the Delhi station from Calcutta. Delhi police had said he had arrived by Poorvanchal Express but there is no train by that name which travels to the capital from Calcutta.

The central agency, which did not want to be named because such wings are not expected to go public, did not contest the police’s charges against Mandal but stood by its claim that he was caught months ago.

“We detained him for so long because we wanted to get more information,” an official said. Once interrogation is over, such suspects are handed over to police for prosecution.

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