Abdul Karim Tunda with plainclothes police officers in New Delhi on Saturday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Aug. 17: Abdul Karim Tunda, 70, the grandfather of jihadi terrorism in India who turned from cloth merchant to militant at 40 and became one of the nation’s most wanted, has been captured after evading Indian police for nearly two decades.
Lashkar-e-Toiba’s master bomb-maker, an accused in 40 bombings in north India between 1996 and 1998, had spent the last 15 years mainly in Pakistan, Delhi police sources said.
Special commissioner S.N. Srivastava told reporters Tunda held a Pakistani passport, issued in the name of Abdul Quddus on January 23 this year, when he was nabbed from the India-Nepal border in Uttarakhand at 3pm yesterday.
Sources claimed the capture was plotted with help from the Intelligence Bureau and Research and Analysis Wing, but would not say what Tunda was doing at the border.
An alternative version claims Tunda was handed over by Pakistan following increased pressure from New Delhi over last week’s killing of Indian soldiers. “He’s a spent force,” an officer claimed.
Tunda is the first to be arrested among the 20 terrorists India had asked Islamabad to hand over after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The others include Dawood Ibrahim, Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed and Jaish-e-Mohammed boss Maulana Masood Azhar.
Officers said Tunda was close to Dawood, Saeed and Lashkar operative Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a key Mumbai attack accused who was once Tunda’s commander in Bangladesh. Tunda was driven to Delhi today and sent to three days’ police custody.
If the short, thickset elderly man with a flowing henna-dyed beard looked an unlikely terrorist, equally unusual is his profile, as given by the police. Tunda was not a jobless youth but a successful middle-aged trader when Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence recruited him directly. That was in the early 1980s, when jihadi terrorism was years from its launch in India.
Tunda was born to a metal worker and his wife in 1943 in a slum at Daryaganj, Old Delhi, but the family soon returned to their native village of Pilakhuwa in Ghaziabad, western Uttar Pradesh.
The young Karim turned carpenter at 17, became a scrap dealer for a while and then entered the cloth business, which took him to Mumbai. After being recruited, Tunda crossed over to Pakistan and Bangladesh and trained in bomb-making before returning to Mumbai in 1985.
He apparently received the moniker Tunda, which means “handicapped”, after his left arm was blown off while making a bomb.
Srivastava said that Tunda masterminded 40 explosions in Delhi, Panipat, Sonepat, Ludhiana, Kanpur and Varanasi between December 1996 and January 1998, killing 21 and injuring 400.
He fled to Pakistan in 1998 and ceased to be a hands-on terrorist, focusing on mentoring and training young recruits from India.
Officers said he owned a perfume business near Lashkar’s compound in Lahore. Tunda has two wives and two sons in Pakistan. Younger son Shahid helps him in the perfume business while the elder is a Lashkar activist.
Tunda’s younger brother Abdul Malik, a carpenter who still lives in their Ghaziabad village, said: “We have no contact with him and don’t want to know anything about him. To us, he is dead.”