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Firing in Howrah station subway

- Trader shot and injured during morning peak hour in first such attack in recent memory

Calcutta, June 22: A trader was shot and injured inside the crowded subway of Howrah railway station this morning, the first such attack in recent memory at one of the busiest stations in the country.

Bakery owner Sheikh Moinuddin, 42, a resident of East Midnapore’s Egra, was climbing up the subway stairs to the station around 9.20am when he was shot at by Sheikh Aslam, 21. People in the subway panicked and ran in all directions, with no one daring to stop the attacker.

Aslam, a resident of Hooghly’s Khanakul who police said attacked Moinuddin because of a business rivalry, surrendered later at Golabari police station under the Howrah commissionerate.

The ease with which the attacker entered the station premises with a gun, shot at a person and ran away shocked many commuters.

Thirty-five police personnel per shift guard the station, which is used by around 8 lakh commuters daily. There are three shifts of eight hours each.

The poorly lit subway, which leads to the bus terminus from the station, is, however, left unguarded, sources said.

Golabari police station is in charge of looking after the subway. The Government Railway Police and the Railway Protection Force guard the rest of the station.

Nishat Pervez, deputy commissioner (headquarters) of the Howrah police commissionerate, said: “We will step up security in the Howrah station subway. There are plans to install CCTVs there in the near future.”

In January, a youth carrying 17 pistols had fled through the subway after freeing himself from the clutches of two constables at the station.

The police said they could not recall an incident of shooting at the station.

“We were on duty at the station when we heard the gunshot. We saw commuters running out of the subway,” a constable said.

Some of the commuters informed the police, who took trader Moinuddin to the Howrah district hospital.

A hawker said: “I heard a gunshot and saw a youth escaping through one of the gates of the subway. The injured man had slumped to the floor and was writhing in pain.”

A doctor at the district hospital said the bullet had pierced through Moinuddin’s right hand and got stuck in his right thigh. “We have removed the bullet. His condition is stable,” the doctor said.

Police sources said Aslam alleged that Moinuddin had duped him by selling fake gold ornaments to a trader in Burrabazar. Aslam, who had facilitated the deal, apparently told the police that he fired at Moinuddin to take revenge.

The police said Aslam told them that he used the pistol Moinuddin had given him to “threaten” the Burrabazar trader. The police recovered the pistol from the subway.

“Aslam had mediated between Moinuddin and the Burrabazar trader. When the trader found out that the ornaments were fake, he started pressuring Aslam to return the Rs 7 lakh he had paid for the jewellery,” said Rashid Munir Khan, an assistant commissioner of police, Howrah.

The police sources said that when Aslam approached Moinuddin, the latter gave him a gun to threaten the Burrabazar trader.

This morning, Aslam called Moinuddin to Howrah on the false promise of introducing him to another client. The police said Moinuddin had got acquainted with Aslam during a trip to his in-laws’ home in Khanakul.