Tauseef Khan (36), wanted in the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts case, was Mohammed Atiq to his students at Karmouni, a Muslim-dominated village in Gaya, before he was arrested along with two others Thursday.
His arrest, meanwhile, has brought to the fore concerns regarding presence of “sleeper cells” of terror outfits in Bihar, police sources said.
According to villagers, Tauseef gave private tuitions in mathematics, science and computers and preferred Class XI and XII students. The villagers have told police that he also taught at a private school — authorities at the school have denied this — and that it was Shane Khan, also under arrest, who helped him get the job. According to police sources, Tauseef had been living in Gaya since 2008 — he allegedly fled to Myanmar after the blasts and came to Gaya via West Bengal. He was first sheltered by Ghulam Sarwar Khan, former Bihar unit chief of SIMI and the third one to be arrested, at Sahdeo Khap village. Tauseef moved to Karmouni, 12 km from Gaya town, about one-and-a-half years ago when he got a job at the school, sources said.
Mohammed Aslam, a shopkeeper at Karmouni, said, “He looked like a practising Muslim. No one can imagine that he was wanted in Gujarat serial blasts case. He was just ‘Masterji’ to all of us. We knew he came from Gujarat. As he was introduced to us by Shane Khan, a local, we did not doubt his credentials.”
Tauseef, who obtained a BTech degree from a Maharashtra-based college in 2005, was allegedly in touch with Indian Mujahideen chief Yasin Bhatkal and his brother Riyaz. An officer at Gaya Civil Lines police station said that during questioning, Tauseef also spoke of his association with Harkat-ul-Jihadi-al-Islami.
“But it is strange no one asked for his identity card all these years till he was detained on Wednesday after he was unable to produce his Aadhaar card at a cyber cafe,” he said.
According to police sources, Tauseef reportedly influenced over three dozen youths in the area in the past five years. “We are yet to assess contents of two pendrives seized from him. We will soon know if they have incriminating content,” said a police officer.
A senior police officer said Tauseef’s arrest had brought to the fore “concerns of presence of sleeper cells of IM, HUJI and other terrorist organisations in Bihar in some form or the other”. “Even if the Darbhanga module of terror might well have subsided after several arrests between 2010 and 2012, there have been attacks on Mahabodhi Temple and blasts at Gandhi Maidan and reports of subversive activities, such as blowing up of tracks. Tauseef had not been just in hiding, he was up to some plan,” he said.
As for Shane Khan and Ghulam Sarwar Khan, police said they run small businesses and have been arrested mainly for sheltering Tauseef. “We are trying to know if Tauseef made them partners in his plan or was just using them as protectors in Gaya. The role of Sarwar, who has a SIMI background, needs to be probed,” said an investigator.