Patna blasts suspect Mehar Alam escapes from NIA custody in Muzaffarpur
One of the suspects in the Patna serial blasts, Mehar Alam, who was picked up from Darbhanga in north Bihar a couple of days ago for questioning, has escaped from custody in Muzaffarpur.
Mehar reportedly hoodwinked National Investigation Agency (NIA) sleuths on Wednesday night and escaped while pretending to attend the call of nature.
NIA inspector BB Pathak has lodged an FIR at the town place station of Muzaffarpur in this connection.
The suspect, a resident of Singhauli village under Hayaghat block in Darbhanga, around 130 km northeast of Patna, was reportedly picked up by the NIA on Tuesday for questioning.
He was kept at a place close to the Darbhanga-Muzaffarpur border. He was also brought to Patna for questioning, during which he confessed to his links with IM operatives Hassan Ali alias Abdullah and Tehseen Akhtar, an official close to the investigation said on Thursday.
According to the official, who did not want to be named, Mehar admitted during questioning that Akhtar had stayed in a lodge at Muzaffarpur prior to the blasts. Muzaffarpur is around 60 km from Darbhanga.
The NIA apparently also has information that Akhtar and Ali had visited Singhauli. Ali is also from Singhauli.
“It was because of this that the NIA took Alam to Muzaffarpur to identify the lodge where Akhtar had stayed,” the official added.
Earlier, investigators said questioning of three suspects arrested in Patna and four more detained in New Delhi, Kolkata, Patna and Ranchi in connection with Patna serial bomb blasts had provided leads that established a connection between the blasts and Pakistan-based leader of Indian Mujahideen (IM) Riyaz Bhaktal.
Security agencies have now intensified the search for Bhatkal’s key aides in India, Mohammad Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu and Haider Ali, both wanted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in several terror strikes, including the ones at Bodh Gaya in Bihar and Hyderabad.
“The duo is constantly in touch with IM modules through Yahoo chats. The ISI is supposed to have funded Riyaz Bhatkal and the money reached Monu and Haider through hawala route,” said an official on the condition of anonymity.
The recovery of a few analog watches from the home of one of the arrested suspects, Imtiaz Ansari, and the use of ammonium nitrate in blasts, indicates the group behind Patna blasts might also have carried out Bodh Gaya blasts.
“One of the arrested suspects has admitted to as much, but a lot more is tumbling out,” said investigators.
Ansari, a suspected IM operative who was arrested from the premises of Patna Junction soon after the blasts, and Arshad Alam who was held at Alauli village in East Champaran district have provided vital clues, the official said.
Ainul Ansari, who was seriously wounded after the first blast has gone into coma at Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences. On the basis of Imtiaz’s statement, NIA also picked up Uzair Ahmad from Ranchi on Wednesday and his kin Mohammad Aftab from Delhi in connection with blasts. Two more suspects, Monam from Patna and Mohammad Ali from Kolkata have also been detained, with officials planning to detain more for questioning.
“It is getting increasingly clear that the IM has now developed a Ranchi module and roped in educated tech-savvy youths to carry out operations. Intelligence inputs points to a nation-wide link, with operatives of the terrorist outfit stationed in different states, but right now Ranchi is the hub they operated from,” the official said.
“Imtiaz and Neyaz also admitted they had been initiated into terrorism by Muhammad Manzar Imam, who was nabbed by NIA in Kerala and later shifted to Delhi in a case involving another IM operative Muhammad Danish Ansari,” he added.
Manzar, an aide of IM co-founder Yaseen Bhatkal, who also was arrested from Nepal, was the man behind setting up Ranchi module in association with Tehseen Akhtar and Haider.
“During interrogation, the arrested IM operatives talked about Manzar and admitted to how Tehseen gave them a map and plan for carrying out Patna blasts,” the investigator said.