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Terror reminder to Mumbai

Mumbai, Aug. 22: Police shot dead a suspected Pakistani militant in a dramatic encounter at dawn after one of his arrested accomplices blew the whistle on a central Mumbai hideout where he was cooped up.

The shootout came a day after central intelligence agencies warned of a possible fidayeen strike in Mumbai in the run-up to Maharashtra’s biggest festival — Ganesh Chaturthi — starting Sunday.

Mumbai police chief A.N. Roy would not confirm if the duo had anything to do with the July 11 train blasts, but cited specific Pakistan addresses they came from.

A railway timetable allegedly found on the militants did remind investigators of the train blasts, though there is no suggestion till now that the militants were plotting a similar attack.

“We intercepted a car last night and arrested a person who led us to the hideout of his accomplice,” Roy said at a news conference.

“There, the other man fired 18 rounds from an AK-47 rifle. We returned fire in which he was killed.”

The slain militant was identified as Mohammed Ali Mohammed Chirag, alias Abu Osama, from Charchak in Faisalabad in Pakistan. His accomplice is 21-year-old Mohammad Riyaz Nawabuddin, of Macchiwal village in Vehari district of Pakistan.

“The arrested terrorist told us he and his accomplice were from Pakistan,” Roy said.

He recounted that around 12.15 am on Tuesday, the anti-terrorist squad had spotted a Maruti van, with a Gujarat number plate, moving suspiciously near Wadala truck terminus in central Mumbai.

After a search of the car threw up a pistol, a white powder, detonators and currency, Nawabuddin, who was at the wheel, was arrested, he said.

Nawabuddin told the cops during questioning that he had been on his way to meet an accomplice. He directed them to a dilapidated unused building in sector 7 of the central government staff colony at Antop Hill, where the police landed around 4.15 am.

“A man hiding in a third floor room tried to open fire at the police from his AK-47 rifle. He fired 18 rounds. The police fired in retaliation, killing him,” Roy said. About 72 rounds were found on his body.

Nawabuddin, arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, disclosed that he had entered India a few months ago and worked in a north Indian city under an assumed Hindu name. He is in police custody.

“The dead man could have been staying in that hideout for two-three days, looking at his scattered personal belongings (maps, diary, rail timetable) in the room,” Roy said.

The police were still verifying if the duo had any specific target in mind, he said. Nothing could be said yet on whether they were part of a bigger terror module.

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