| Rahul Gandhi being garlanded at the AICC session in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)
Lucknow, Nov. 17: The three Jaish-e-Mohammed militants arrested yesterday have each named Rahul Gandhi as their target, according to a purported transcript of their separate police interrogations that The Telegraph has obtained.
Senior officers, however, refused to confirm this officially.
Rahul would have been kidnapped during one of his visits to Amethi-Rae Bareli, the militants allegedly said. The trio would then have demanded the release of 42 jailed militants.
The youngest, Mohammed Yusuf, 21, said they planned to “hold the grenade in our hands and remove the pin. We (would) then fire from our pistols and take Rahul to any open field. The sleeper (cell) agents working for us were to give us a location.”
A person can hold a grenade in his hand for hours on end after removing the pin — but only if he is careful not to touch the clip below the pin, an army expert said. Later, the grenade must be disposed of in a safe place. Once the clip is pressed, the grenade goes off in four seconds.
Yusuf said he had practised holding a grenade on his palm for hours. “I began by holding a brick on my palm for two days at a stretch,” he told the state police’s special task force (STF) during his night-long interrogation.
Excerpts from the purported transcript of the interrogation of team leader Mohammed Abid, 27:
STF: What was your mission…'
Abid: We are here to abduct Rahul Gandhi.
Q: Who else has come with you'
A: Two others.
Q: Where did you get trained to accomplish this mission'
A: Both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Q: Where are you originally from'
A: Lahore in Pakistan.
“We were asked to ensure the release of 42 prisoners. We were given the list and asked to memorise it,” Mirza Rashid Beg, 26, said.
The three alleged Pakistani nationals were arrested near Lucknow yesterday morning while driving towards a fork in a highway from which one road leads to Rae Bareli.
A magistrate today remanded them to a fortnight’s STF remand. Some advocates, demonstrating against the trio, roughed them up in court.
STF senior superintendent Amitabh Yash tried to clarify one grey area in the account of the arrests. The police had said yesterday that the team had fired in the air after being challenged and then surrendered without bloodshed — despite possessing AK-47s and grenades.
Yash said the trio could not fire from their automatic weapons or throw grenades because they were all hidden inside cavities carved into the car’s body.
“The AK-47s had not even been assembled. They just fired in the air from the Chinese-made pistols before giving themselves up,” he said.
The trio probably sat separately on the Sampark Kranti Express that brought them from Jammu to Delhi on Thursday, he added. All three were waitlisted sleeper class tickets.
“They may not have smuggled the weapons in themselves. Probably, the arms had already been fitted into the car that was kept ready for them outside the Delhi station.”
The team received instructions at every step from “sleeper cells”, with not one cell aware of what the other cells were telling the trio, Yash said.
He said the militants kept in touch with their “handlers” through public telephones, using code language.
Yusuf said a fellow militant who had trained with him in Pakistan was killed by the security forces during the July 2005 Ayodhya attack. He could not recall his name but said, “We are never told the real names of fellow jihadis, anyway.”
Yash said the team was ready to wait in India “for months” before carrying out the abduction, but would not confirm if the target was Rahul. “I have not been authorised to comment on certain issues,” he said.
State director-general of police Vikram Singh said his force had sent a report to the Union home ministry about the militants’ mission. “I have no comments on the specific leader whose name is being discussed.”