Mumbai : A month after he escaped from the Mumbai sessions court, suspected Indian Mujahideen operative Afzal Usmani (37) was arrested from a railway station in Uttar Pradesh while he was preparing to cross over to Nepal.
The Maharashtra ATS, which arrested him, said he was nabbed outside Rupaidiha railway station at 3.30 am on Sunday.
ATS Chief Rakesh Maria said Usmani was caught after his nephew Javed Noorul Hasan Khan, who had assisted in his escape from Mumbai, was picked up from suburban Kurla by the ATS on October 25.
Javed (19) has been arrested for aiding and abetting Usmani’s escape.
According to the ATS, after escaping from the court, Usmani took a taxi to reach Sewree where he borrowed Rs 600 from a friend, Akmal Khan. He then went to Dharavi where his sister Safia Qatum lives.
Usmani met Safia’s son Javed, who had been brainwashed by him. Javed stole Rs 5,000 from his house and the duo decided to flee to Uttar Pradesh.
“Usmani got his beard trimmed from a roadside barber at Dharavi, changed his dress and then got a shave at Sion. The duo then took a public transport bus to Santa Cruz and from there an auto for Borivali,” Maria said.
From Borivali, the two took a private bus for Surat and reached Bahraich district in Uttar Pradesh by train after visiting Indore, Bhopal and Jabalpur, among other places.
Usmani was hiding in Tatera village, where his relatives also stay, after informing them that he had been granted bail, said another ATS official. He had also applied for a passport and a driving license under the assumed name of Wasim Sattar Khan.
Later, the ATS received information that the nephew Javed would be arriving in the city on October 25.
“Accordingly, a trap was laid and Javed was nabbed from suburban Kurla. Javed spilled the beans about Usmani hiding in Tatera village. He told us that he had returned to collect his school certificate. Our team was immediately flown to UP and reached the village but Usmani could not be traced,”
Maria said. Acting on specific information, the ATS team, in co-ordination with the UP police, apprehended Usmani from outside Rupaidiha railway station. Usmani was allegedly involved in stealing four cars, which were used to transport explosives to Ahmedabad and Surat. A series of 21 bomb blasts had rocked Ahmedabad on July 26, 2008, within a span of 70 minutes, killing 56 people and wounding over 200. Some bombs were planted in tiffin carriers on bicycles.
A native of Uttar Pradesh, Usmani came to Mumbai in the early 1990s to earn a living. Unable to find a job, he turned to a life of crime and became a thief. He was spotted by the Fazl-ur-Rehman gang and entrusted with the task of stealing cars for them. In the early 2000s, he came in contact with Indian Mujahideen co-founder Riyaz Bhatkal Usmani is facing trial in the special MCOCA court for sending out terror mails related to the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts. He was arrested on September 23, 2008, from Kurla. Six judges hearing the case have been transferred over the years; another reason for the delay was that the accused approached the apex court, challenging the MCOCA trial.
The charges were to be framed on September 20 but after Usmani’s escape, the matter got adjourned.