| Police guard the temple premises after the attack
Lucknow, July 22: The special task force investigating the July 5 militant strike in Ayodhya made their first arrest in Uttar Pradesh today which they hope will unravel the attackers’ network in the state.
Irfan Khan, a practitioner of Unani medicine ' an alternative form of medicine ' was picked up from Saharanpur in west Uttar Pradesh.
“Irfan Khan was clearly in the know of the entire plan of the militants, interrogations have so far revealed. He has always been in close touch with all the militants,” STF inspector-general Arun Kumar Gupta said.
The sleuths also traced a room in Akbarpur, 60 km from Ayodhya, in which the militants had allegedly unloaded weapons and lived for 25 days in May. In a raid, they found a big rucksack believed to have been used to carry arms, some papers, a driving licence from Amritsar and a hand-sketched map of Ayodhya.
The sketch marked the route the militants would take to reach the makeshift Ram temple, police said. It also marked another route that the militants planned to take to escape after the blast.
But five militants who came within 70 metres of blowing up the makeshift temple on the morning of July 5 were gunned down before they could reach their target. A sixth is suspected to have fled.
A mobile phone found at the site helped the police uncover the identity of the five and their network in Delhi, where they were said to have been living since August-September.
Calls made from the same phone have now led the STF to Khan, the Unani practitioner in his mid-twenties who has been running a clinic in Delhi for the past year. The clinic was located just a lane away from the house rented by some of the militants in Deoli village on the city’s outskirts.
Khan had made several calls from this phone to his family in Saharanpur, about 150 km from Delhi. The militants had also called him from Delhi at his Saharanpur home on this phone. A SIM card was bought by one of the militants in Sultanpur, near Akbarpur, in May.
The Unani practitioner was arrested from his house in Titron village in Saharanpur, where his parents and younger brother live. His clinic in Delhi has been closed for the past couple of weeks.
The arrest will, the police hope, expose the rest of the network in Uttar Pradesh which is believed to be spread across Lucknow, Akbarpur, Sultanpur, Saharanpur and Muzaffarnagar.
In late March, the militants had stayed in Saharanpur in the house of Abdul Rahman, an employee in a tractor company and a relative of Khan, for two days, the police said. At least one, Amin alias Zubair, attended the wedding of Khan’s cousin in Saharanpur on March 20.
At least two militants had lived in Muzaffarnagar, a neighbouring district, in the house of another relative of Khan. During their stay, the militants had visited Deoband, where the largest Muslim seminary Darul Uloom is located, Arun Gupta said. Deoband is 30 km from Muzaffarnagar town.
Details of calls from the phone also revealed that the militants had dialled Akbarpur from Delhi seven times in May.
The room they took in Akbarpur for a rent of Rs 600 a month was owned by Ramashray Konar.
One militant had introduced himself to the landlord as Ram Singh and told him another was his cousin. The two used to sell gutka around the area on a cycle in Akbarpur during their stay. From a bag attached to the cycle, the police have found samples of Sanyog and Asha Gutka.
The house-owner told the police that the two had taken the room in April and lived there for 25 days in May. Then they left only to return in the first week of June.