Ranchi, May 21: National Investigation Agency (NIA) today arrested four top accused in the Patna serial blasts that rocked Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi’s Hunkar Rally last year on October 27, killing five persons and injuring over 80 at the Gandhi Maidan venue.
Lucknow’s NIA team, assisted by Ranchi police, arrested Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives — the blasts are allegedly the handiwork of the home-grown terror outfit — Haider Ali (26) and Muzibullah Ansari (24) from Birsa Munda bus stand, popularly known as Khadgarha terminus, around 1am today.
Two more suspects, blasts accused Imtiyaz Ansari’s 16-year-old nephew and protťgť and Numan Ansari (21), were arrested from Daltonganj in Palamau district early this morning by the NIA with the help of Palamau police.
Confirming the arrests, NIA DG Sharad Kumar in Delhi claimed to have wrapped up the cases related to Patna and Bodh Gaya serial blasts. All 14 accused of Patna blasts and eight of Bodh Gaya blasts are in custody, DG Kumar added.
“Definitely there was a conspiracy by these people to harm Modiji,” Kumar said in the NIA’s first media briefing in over two years.
The NIA and Ranchi police teams pounced on Haider and Muzibullah in the dark when they were dozing near a dhaba at the Khadgarha stand.
A senior policeman, privy to the drama, said the duo jumped in surprise when the NIA team kicked Haider and called him by his secret alias “Black Beauty”.
“Oye Black Beauty, uth ja bahut bhaag liya. Thak gaya hoga ab aaram kar le (Hey. Black Beauty, you’ve run enough, you must be tired, rest now),” an NIA officer reportedly said. Both were taken to JAP guesthouse in Doranda for initial interrogation.
Palamau SP Y.S. Ramesh confirmed the arrests from Shankar Lodge at Baralota in Daltonganj. “Numan and the minor boy, both residents of Sithio village on Ranchi’s outskirts, were staying here for the past 15 days,” he said.
The NIA recovered cash, travel tickets, pen drives, mobile phones and some books from all four.
Around 6pm, the NIA presented Haider and Muzibullah before the court of judicial magistrate Manoj Kumar Sharma in Ranchi. The court accepted NIA’s request for transit remand, but the NIA team has not divulged where the duo will be taken.
Similarly, the fate of the minor boy and Numan is a closely guarded secret.
The other two Sithio suspects are Imtiyaz (28), nabbed at Patna station on October 27 and currently lodged at Beur jail in Patna, and Enul (25) who died of injuries from the explosives he was carrying.
The quartet arrested today is suspected of being involved in Patna blasts as well as in Bodh Gaya explosions last July.
The Patna blasts, a multi-layered conspiracy, was hatched primarily by Bihar-based IM agents who recruited Jharkhand youths — fresh blood — such as Imtiyaz, Muzibullah, who in turn got younger boys into the fold. Haider of Aurangabad and Tahseen Akhtar of Samastipur, both in Bihar, allegedly toured Ranchi to activate IM sleeper cells.
Last November, the NIA raided a students’ hostel called Iram Lodge in Ranchi where Muzibullah stayed. They recovered nine low-intensity bombs fitted with timers similar to those used in Patna and Bodh Gaya blasts, as well as 25 detonators, 19 gelatine sticks and three electronic watches.
Interrogation of an IM operative Umar Siddiqui, arrested from Raipur, Chhattisgarh last year, revealed that a band of youths, including those arrested today, attended several Modi rallies in Delhi, Kanpur and other places to understand security arrangements. In Patna, they managed to trigger the blasts.
Though Imtiyaz was arrested in October, the real breakthrough was Tahseen’s arrest by Delhi police from Naxalbari in Darjeeling, Bengal, this March.
Tahseen first met Imtiyaz around 2007 in Ranchi during a religious function held at the home of a retired DSP.
Yesterday, the NIA brought Tahseen to Ranchi for spot verification and took him to Sithio. The NIA took Tahseen back to Delhi today.