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IM duo taken on Sithio recce

Ranchi, June 22: National Investigation Agency (NIA) returned to Ranchi last evening with Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives Haider Ali and Muzibullah Ansari — the two key accused in the Patna serial blasts on October 27, 2013 — for further investigations.

This morning, the duo — who were arrested by the NIA from the state capital on May 21 — were taken to Sithio village, on the outskirts of Ranchi, where the NIA had recovered six IEDs from a paddy field on June 7.

Along with the two, the investigating officers visited different places in the village to find out whether more unused bombs were hidden there.

Sources said the agency had secured a fresh 12-day remand of the two IM operatives from a special NIA court in Patna on Wednesday and brought them to Ranchi. The team is expected to stay here for the next few days.

“One thing is clear that a large quantity of explosives were assembled in Ranchi, where many IM operatives had taken shelter and planned several terror attacks across the country. Ranchi has emerged as an operational hub for the terror group after intelligence agencies busted its bases in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar,” a police officer said.

During interrogations, Haider told the investigators that he wanted to revive the Students Islamic Organisation of India and make it a radical and belligerent outfit.

Investigations so far revealed the IM’s Ranchi module had grown stronger over the past few years and Haider had developed a strong network of sleeper cells, who helped carry out several attacks, including the Patna serial blasts on the day of Narendra Modi’s rally and Bodhgaya Temple blasts last year. Haider, along with Tahseen Akhtar, had played a key role in both the plots.

Notably, the agency arrested Iftikar Ansari (25) and Firoz Aslam, alias Pappu (39), from Ranchi on June 7 on the basis of inputs given by Haider and Muzibullah.

Also, the agency recovered six IEDs from Sithio village and three live bombs fitted with timers from Karbala Chowk on the outskirts of Ranchi on the same day.

NIA believes more sleeper cells are still hiding in different parts of the state capital and is now looking for them.