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Sukna base driver held for ISI link

Darjeeling, May 23: A contractual driver who worked at the army base in Sukna has been arrested for alleged ISI links, but the Darjeeling police chief said he did not seem involved with the people caught days back for suspected connections with the Pakistani spy agency.

Kunal Aggarwal, the Darjeeling superintendent of police, said: “Following a complaint from the commanding officer of the civil government transport wing of the army, we have arrested Md Azad, who was on his way to New Jalpaiguri (which has a railway station) around 4pm today.”

Aggarwal said no connection had yet been established between 39-year-old Md Azad and the five alleged ISI agents whom the police arrested on May 19 and 20.

“We have not yet established any connection between Azad and the others arrested earlier. This looks like a separate case,” he said.

The army’s 33 Corps is headquartered in Sukna, where Azad worked, though he was not among the regular army staff.

He worked as a cleaner-cum-driver on contract.

An army clerk posted in Sukna was arrested on May 20 for passing information to the ISI.

Asked what documents were found on Azad, Aggarwal said: “Photographs of the army installation at Sukna were found in his mobile phone. According to the complaint filed by the army, Md Azad was allegedly transferring information to ISI people in Delhi.”

Police sources said investigators had found some phone number of people with whom Azad was in contact in Delhi. Azad has been working with the army’s civil transport wing since 1999 and is a resident of Matigara in Siliguri.

Last Sunday, police arrested four persons for suspected ISI links. They were identified as Meshan Souriya, 54, ex-serviceman Maghan Bahadur Singh, 54, Dhan Kumar Pradhan, 42, of Panighatta bazaar and Gopal Khati, 39.

On May 19, the police also detained a serving army official, Mani Kumar Biswakarma, an upper division clerk at Sukna. The next day, he too was arrested.

Investigators had earlier that some of the documents seized from them showed fighter jet positions in air force bases at Bagdogra and Hashimara.

The police in Darjeeling said the first four arrests happened after Rajasthan police, who had arrested an army official, tipped them off.

Azad will be produced in a Kurseong court tomorrow and has been booked under the Official Secret Act (passing of classified documents to unauthorised persons), like the five others.

The four persons arrested on May 19 have reportedly told investigators that they were paid Rs 25,000 for every information passed on to ISI agents in Kathmandu.

“They would physically go to Kathmandu to supply the information and they always travelled by air through Bhadrapur airport (nearest airport in Nepal from Siliguri). They would be paid a sum of Rs 25,000 for every information passed on to ISI agents and their air fares would also be reimbursed,” said an investigator.

The sleuths have maintained that Souriya was the main agent who had formed the group in 2008 onwards.

“We are looking into the assets of Souriya and we can safely say he has loads of money along with assets like lands,” said another investigator.