Lucknow, July 16: With the five Ayodhya attackers dead and many of their helpers in Poonch in custody, the focus has narrowed on the suicide strikers’ accomplice, Mehmood alias Javed.
Police believe that tracking down the 19-year-old “sixth militant”, whose trail vanished after the group left Delhi for Akbarpur on June 24, is the key to unravelling the remaining mysteries of the militant operation.
One question still to be answered is how the weapons, delivered to the suicide strikers in Panipat by their Poonch links in the first week of June, reached Akbarpur in Uttar Pradesh.
The state police’s special task force (STF) suspects it was Mehmood who travelled to Panipat from Delhi, received the weapons and brought them to Akbarpur.
“He probably left for Panipat and stayed holed up in some place to co-ordinate between the five-member gang in Ayodhya and their (Lashkar-e-Toiba) commander in Poonch, Qari Safiullah,” said Rajesh Pandey, STF additional superintendent.
From Akbarpur, Mehmood returned to Delhi’s Kishangarh ' where he and group leader Yunus had rented rooms in the same house 'leaving the weapons with accomplices in Akbarpur, whom the investigators are yet to pin down.
On June 24, Mehmood and Yunus left for Akbarpur together with the four other militants, who had been staying at Deoli village on the capital’s outskirts.
The police believe that Mehmood, who had enrolled himself in a spoken English course during his nine-month stay in Delhi, did spend some time in Akbarpur before vanishing without a trace.
“We believe he was in Akbarpur. Some of the local people we interrogated told us about a man who was speaking in English and Urdu,” said Arun Kumar Gupta, STF inspector-general. “But this sketchy information isn’t enough. He did not appear to have participated in the action.”
The STF today raided Akbarpur and the town of Sultanpur, 45 km to the east, and questioned some people in Lucknow. But no one could provide concrete leads on Mehmood.
The police raided Sultanpur after learning that a man who looked like a Kashmiri but claimed to be from Amritsar had spent three days in a hotel there. They picked up three persons from the hotel.
As co-ordinator and a weapons conduit, Mehmood could be “the key to the grey areas of the entire terrorist trail in India,” a senior investigating officer said.