At least six persons were held in an anti-terror sweep and a security operation was underway Tuesday night to flush out two suspects holed up inside a house on the outskirts of Lucknow, hours after a low intensity explosion on board a Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train left nine persons injured. Madhya Pradesh police said within hours of the blast, three men were held as they stepped off a bus near Pipariya in Hoshangabad district and their questioning revealed the locations of other suspects in Kanpur and Lucknow. This information was shared with central intelligence agencies which, in turn, alerted Uttar Pradesh police.
Watch | Lucknow Encounter Ends, Terrorist Linked To Ujjain Train Blast Killed
Uttar Pradesh police identified the men arrested near Pipariya as Aatish Muzaffar alias Al Kasim, Danish Akhtar alias Jaffar (both from Kanpur) and Syed Mir Hussain alias Humza of Aligarh. The three held in Kanpur were named as Mohammad Faisal Khan and Mohammad Imran alias Bhai (brothers from Kanpur) and Fakre Alam alias Rishu of Etawah. Police said they recovered a laptop, cellphones and found Islamic State videos and literature in the laptop.
One of the two suspects holed up in the house in Haji Colony on the outskirts of Lucknow was named as Mohammad Saifurullah alias Ali, a resident of Kanpur. ATS personnel were trying to flush them out and shots were heard in the evening.
UP Additional DGP (Law and Order) Daljit Chaudhary said police had drilled through a portion of the roof of the house. “There are two terrorists holed up in the house. Initially, we thought that there was only one terrorist. Both are very much alive. Two weapons have also been spotted lying there,” he said, adding that police want to capture them alive. “We want to arrest them,” he said.
The sweep was ordered after nine passengers were injured, two of them critically, in a low intensity explosion caused by an IED in the penultimate coach of the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train around 9.30 am. The train was near Kalapipal when an explosion was heard in the general coach near Jabri station in Shajapur district. The IED, police said, was probably kept in a bag.
Some passengers jumped from the running train and were injured. They were taken to the government hospital in Kalapipal and two were later referred to a hospital in Bhopal. The train proceeded towards Ujjain after the last two coaches were detached.
Shajapur SP Monika Shukla told The Indian Express: “A few people were injured. Most sustained minor injuries because the explosive was kept on the upper seat. There were many passengers in the coach.’’
Three hours after the explosion, police detained the three men at Pipariya. They had boarded a bus from the Nadra bus stand, not very far from the main railway station in Bhopal, after allegedly planting the IED on the train, police said.
Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bhupendra Singh said information, gathered during the questioning of the three suspects, was shared with central agencies. “We have now proved that terrorists can no longer hide in MP or any part of the country,’’ he said.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, while congratulating the state police, tweeted: “Madhya Pradesh is an island of peace. Those who try to disturb its harmony will not be spared. Those responsible will be brought to justice.’’
Madhya Pradesh IG (intelligence) Makrand Deoskar said police received intelligence input that the suspects were headed towards Pipariya, about 120 km from Bhopal. He said the three were involved in the train explosion.
A senior police officer told The Indian Express that the three men had probably come from Lucknow. A dozen armed policemen surrounded the bus when it reached Pipariya. “They did not appear to be carrying weapons, and did not resist. They were carrying bags but we don’t know what it contained because the suspects were handed over to ATS,’’ the officer said, adding that the suspects were in their 20s.
In Lucknow, the UP ATS reached Haji Colony around 2.30 pm. Police claimed they were fired at when they approached the house. A cordon was thrown around the area and onlookers were kept at bay. Police tried to make the suspects surrender but, until late night, had not succeeded. The suspects appeared to have moved to a room of the house.
ATS SSP Umesh Kumar Srivastava said the suspects fired on the policemen who responded by firing only tear gas shells. He said a portion of the roof had been drilled and chilli bombs were thrown inside to force the suspects out.
UP DGP Javeed Ahmed said the holed-up men were suspected to be linked to the Madhya Pradesh train blast. He said two of the arrested Kanpur youths were brothers.
In Haji Colony, residents said Saifurullah and three others had rented the house two months ago. The house owner was one Badshah who works in Saudi Arabia. A neighbour, Afzal, said the caretaker of the house was Badshah’s relative who had let out the house on rent to the four youths who claimed to be students.
“I last spotted the youths yesterday. This morning, Saifurullah left the house. He returned in the afternoon. A few minutes later, a large police team arrived and encircled the house,” Afzal said. He and his family fled from their house once they heard gunshots.