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Harkat top two in court bombing net

Lucknow, Dec. 22: The state police today claimed to have arrested two Harkat-ul Jihadi Islami men who they said were behind last month’s triple court blasts and the May Gorakhpur explosions.

Mohammad Tariq, 21, and Khalid Mujahid, 19 Ś both Indian citizens Ś were nabbed by the special task force at Barabanki railway station in central Uttar Pradesh.

“They were there to hand over 1.25 kg RDX and 90 ammonium nitrate and gelatine sticks to someone they called ‘Guru’, but he did not turn up,” STF additional director-general Brij Lal said.

Tariq and Khalid were No. 1 and No. 2 in an entirely Indian module of 23, and had led four accomplices into planting “tiffin-box” bombs in bicycles outside the Varanasi, Lucknow and Faizabad courts on November 23, Lal said. Fifteen persons, including several lawyers, died in the blasts and over 50 were injured.

The same method was used to carry out the May 22 blasts at Gorakhpur’s Golghar, which injured six persons.

The two men have reportedly said they belonged to an outfit called Harkat-ul Jihadi Islami India. It’s a name the police had first heard when an email arrived at a TV channel’s office on November 24, claiming responsibility for the court blasts.

Police sources said Harkat India was probably formed in December last year as a wing of the Bangladesh-based Harkat, and reflected the group’s success in recruiting a large number of Indians.

The STF believes that “Guru” is a Bangladeshi named Mohammed Mokhtar alias Raju, who heads Harkat’s Indian wing and recruits Indians. Although they failed to catch him, the STF pointed to a suspected Harkat militant, Mohammed Sajjad, 25, who was arrested today in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Sajjad could be Guru, using another name. Maybe Guru couldn’t make it to Barabanki because he got caught in Kashmir,” an STF officer said. “We are in touch with Jammu and Kashmir police.”

The Harkat, led by Shahid Bilal, is the prime suspect in the blasts at Varanasi’s Sankatmochan temple (March 2006), Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid (May 2007) and the Ajmer Sharif dargah (October 2007). The outfit is believed to be backed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Tariq is a resident of Azamgarh’s Shammopur village and Khalid of Jaunpur, both in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

“On May 20, Tariq received Rs 50 lakh through a hawala channel and went to Gorakhpur to carry out the blasts,” a police source said. “At a November 17 meeting at his home in Azamgarh, he split the members into three groups for the court bombings.”

The explosives were handed over to them in Varanasi, where Tariq was in charge of the blasts. Khalid led the Faizabad and Lucknow teams, Lal said.

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