Monday, October 28, 2013

To evade police, fugitive Indian Mujahideen member Afzal Usmani changed appearance, stayed on the move

MUMBAI: Suspected Indian Mujahideen member Afzal Usmani who gave his escorting officer, assistant sub-inspector Sanjay Deshmukh, the slip at a city court in September has been re-arrested in UP.

"Usmani took a cab from Kala Ghoda to Sewri, borrowed Rs 600 from an acquaintance, Shaikh Akmal, and hired another taxi to Azad Nagar slum in Dharavi. His nephew Javed resided in Dharavi with Usmani's sister and Javed's maternal aunt Safiya Khatoon. Usmani called Javed from a PCO and asked him to arrange Rs 5,000," ATS chief Rakesh Maria said.

Around 4pm, the two left for Sion-Dharavi Road together; Usmani got his moustache and beard trimmed by a roadside barber and changed his clothes. The two subsequently travelled to Santa Cruz, then to Borivli, and at 6.30pm left Mumbai for Surat on a luxury bus. Maria said the two kept moving every few days, journeying from Surat to Indore to Bhopal and then to Jabalpur before finally settling down in Tatera (the village of Javed's mother's).

Maria said Javed was always under suspicion. "Javed had stayed in touch with Usmani while the latter was in jail the last several years. He came to meet Usmani in court and at Taloja and Sabarmati jails. Also, he mysteriously disappeared the day Usmani fled. On the night of October 25, we received a tip-off that Javed was coming to Kurla LBS Marg, so we laid a trap and nabbed him," said the ATS head.

Javed's interrogation revealed that Usmani was living in Tatera and was preparing to leave for Nepal. Javed told the police that he had come to Mumbai to collect his school marksheets and some other documents so that he could join Usmani in Nepal in the first week of November. "We arrested Javed on charges of harbouring Usmani and aiding in his escape," Maria said.

A police team took a flight to Lucknow early on October 26. But by the time it reached Tatera, Usmani had left. "The team received another tip-off and rushed to Rupaidiha railway station near the Indo-Nepal border. It found Usmani at the station at 3.30am on Sunday. He looked completely different. Our team could identify him only because its members had arrested Usmani in the past and knew him," said a police officer.

The police said they recovered Nepalese rupees from Usmani. "We also seized a driving licence application submitted by Usmani to the Bahraich RTO on October 24 in the name of Waseem Sattar Khan. He had assumed this fake identity," the officer said. Usmani had allegedly indoctrinated Javed and asked him to join Indian Mujahideen's operations in Nepal.

Usmani was produced before a court on Monday and remanded in police custody until November 6. Officers said the barber who trimmed Usmani's beard will be summoned for the terror suspect's identification parade and will be made a star witness.