Indian intelligence agencies have nabbed Mohammad Ariz Khan, aka Junaid, a prominent Indian Mujahideen member and the purported main executioner of the 2008 serial blasts in Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad that killed 165 people and left more than 535 injured.
Ariz had managed to escape from the Batla House flat during the 2008 police encounter in which inspector Mohan Chand Sharma was shot dead. Intelligence agencies caught up with Ariz in Nepal, where he was held along with an aide, Abdul Subhan Qureshi, aka Tauqeer.
Ariz, an expert bomber, has been handed over to the Delhi Police. He carried a reward of Rs 15 lakh and an Interpol red-corner notice had been issued against him.
Swinging between India, Nepal and Saudi Arabia, Ariz had handled to dodge investigators for around a decade before he and Tauqeer were spotted in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, by sleuths of an intelligence analysis unit in December 2016.
On September 13, 2008, Ariz and his associate had allegedly planted IEDs at M-Block Market, Greater Kailash and other places in Delhi. Around 30 people were killed and over 100 were injured in the serial blasts that occurred at the GK market, Karol Bagh and Connaught Place. Four unexploded IEDs were later recovered from Connaught Place, India Gate and Parliament Street.
Police question third suspect, arrest likely
Ariz and Tauqeer returned to Nepal in March 2017 and have been in that country since. Indian agencies finally closed in on them last December. While Tauqeer was brought to India in early January, Delhi Police formally arrested Ariz from Banbasa, on Indo-Nepal border, on Tuesday. A third suspect is also being questioned and is likely to be arrested in the arriving days, sources said.
In his disclosure, Ariz claimed that he had begun operations to revive IM after forming a base in Nepal. Through his established contacts, he procured logistics for his visits to India.
Ariz told interrogators that after the Batla House encounter, he had visited a number of relatives and acquaintances in Delhi, UP, Rajasthan and Maharashtra for shelter but none agreed to keep him fearing police action.
He then contacted his uncle, Khursheed Alam, who gave him contact details of one Nizamuddin alias Nizam Khan in Nepal. Ariz, who was in Varanasi at that time, then headed to Bihar and crossed the open border to reach Birat Nagar, Nepal. There, Nizam assisted him with a place to stay and gave him money, Ariz told interrogators.
In due course, Nizam helped him procure a Nepali citizenship card and a passport in the name of Mohammed Salim. In Nepal, he had stayed in Palpa, Kapilavastu and Gorkha area, he has claimed. During his stay in Nepal, he started a dhaba but later started to teach at small schools in the area. He remained in Nepal till 2014.
After that, he got in touch with Riyaz Bhatkal who motivated him to come to Dammam, Saudi Arabia for arranging finances to revive the Indian Mujahideen in India. In September 2014, he went to Saudi Arabia as Salim. For cover, he worked as a “stocker” at a company and started to meet SIMI/IM sympathisers there.
Delhi Police has arrested him under sections of UAPA and waging war against the nation invoked in the Delhi serial blasts case of 2008.
According to Delhi Police, Ariz’s associates, Saif and Khalid, had brought explosives from the Bhatkals in Udupi, Karnataka, for the serial blasts. Ariz and Atif Ameen received the explosives in Delhi. Ariz and “Bada Sajid” bought raw materials for making the IEDs from various markets of Delhi.
Ariz has been taken on remand till March 10 for interrogation by a police team led by deputy commissioner of police (special cell) Pramod Kushwaha.