Lucknow, Sept. 19: Two of the suspected militants involved in todays Delhi shootout are from an eastern Uttar Pradesh town which state police and intelligence had kept under their scanner for the past five weeks.
The states security establishment was left red in the face today on learning that Mohammed Atif Amin, slain in the Delhi gun battle, and Mohammed Saif, injured and arrested, were from Azamgarh districts Sarai Mir.
Sarai Mir is the hometown of don Abu Salem and alleged Indian Mujahideen militant Mufti Abu Basheer, accused of plotting the July 26 Ahmedabad blasts.
State sleuths have been constantly visiting the town since mid-August — when Basheer was picked up from his home, arrested and sent to Ahmedabad — but had no clue about Atif and Saif till this mornings shootout in Delhi.
We had no information about the background of the two, who happen to be from Azamgarh. There were no criminal cases against them, state additional director-general of police Brij Lal said.
Sarai Mir residents said the reason was that the young men were innocent.
Atifs father Mohammed Amin, a small-time trader, led a protest on the streets after he learnt about his 22-year-old sons death from television news. This is a brutal act by Delhi police. My son had no links with terrorists, he said.
Atifs brother Mohammad Rakeeb, a professional photographer, said: My brother just happened to be there at Jamianagar — he had gone to the house to meet friends — and the police killed him. He was innocent. The family did not mention what Atif did but said he split his time between Delhi and Sarai Mir.
Saif is a student of Delhis Jamia Millia Islamia, the young mans neighbours and an uncle claimed. But the university denied this.
Saifs father and Samajwadi Party leader Shadab Ahmed claimed his son was innocent and demanded a thorough probe before he was punished.
Ahmed, vice-president of the Samajwadi Partys Azamgarh district unit, said: If he is found guilty, I am ready to shoot him dead.
Azamgarh police said Ahmed wielded immense clout in the region, where he is known simply as Mister.
S.M. Asif, national president of the All India Minorities Front, has demanded a probe into the Delhi gunfight by a Supreme Court judge. After speaking to residents of the house where the incident took place, he said the minorities had lost faith in Delhi police.
Azamgarh has for decades had a link with the Mumbai and Dubai underworlds, where it used to export its famous country-made pistols, known as kattas, whose factories dot the region. The district was also known for its conveyor belt of young sharpshooters who joined the Mumbai gangs.
Hitmen from the area have been accused of the murders of Bollywood producer Gulshan Kumar in Mumbai and Left leader Shankar Guha Niyogi in Chhattisgarh.
Salem is said to have flooded his hometown with cash.
Sarai Mirs rows of prosperous-looking shops and 60-odd phone booths give away how the town of 7,000 people has suddenly turned wealthy.
Every month, Mumbai and West Asia dons pump in Rs 1 crore through the hawala channels into this district, an officer had told The Telegraph after Salems extradition from Portugal.