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Absconding for over 14 years, a key accused in the 2002 Kolkata American Center terror attack case has been arrested by officials of the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) from Bihar’s Aurangabad district. ATS officials on Sunday said although there was no case against accused Imam Hasan (in his mid 40s) in Gujarat, he was a member of “Asif Raza Commando Force (ARCF)” having links with terror outfit Harkat-ul-Jihadi-e-Islam or HuJI, which had attacked the American Center in Kolkata and killed six policemen. The group reportedly wanted “to avenge the encounter of Asif Raza — alleged gangster and founder member of Indian Mujahideen — by the Gujarat Police” in December 2001 in Bharuch district.
Hasan, who was arrested on Saturday, would be brought to Ahmedabad and soon handed over to the Kolkata Police, said the officials. Information on the whereabouts of Hasan came while the ATS was keeping a tab on “people involved in anti-national activities, sleeper cells and wanted accused in terror attacks in view of surgical strikes by the Indian Army following the terror attack in Uri”. According to the ATS, Hasan, a native of Bihar’s Gaya district, had changed his name to “Arif” and ran a small garment shop in Aurangabad.
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“Hasan had arranged the bike which was used in the American Center attack and went into hiding in Hazaribagh (Jharkhand). His maternal uncle Jamaluddin Nasir is currently serving life sentence for his role in the attack, after the Supreme Court commuted his death penalty. Hasan’s brother-in-law Adil Hasan was also a convict in the case,” an ATS official said.
Another member of ARCF Aftab Ansari is serving life sentence in the American Center attack case. The official said Hasan was an important member of Asif Raza Commando Force — formed to avenge Asif’s death. The group had plotted to target a police station in Rajkot, but changed its plan, said an ATS official. According to the ATS, members of ARCF assumed that the Kolkata Police had helped their Gujarat counterparts in locating Asif and hence, they plotted to attack the CID, Bhawani Bhawan, in Kolkata, but they again changed their plan for security reasons. Eventually, ARCF members chose to attack the policemen posted at the American Center.
On January 22, 2002, two bike-borne attackers indiscriminately fired with an AK-47 rifle at the policemen deployed there, killing six and injuring 14. Besides Asif, his brother Aamir (said to be in Pakistan) and Aftab Ansari too were alleged founder members of Indian Mujahideen. The ATS officials have maintained that to spread terror activities across the country, Jaish-e-Mohammed’s commandant Mohammed Omar Shaikh asked Aftab Ansari to raise $1,00,000.
For this purpose, the gang had abducted Rajkot-based businessman Prabhudas Parekh’s son Bhaskar and his friend Paresh Shah in November 2000 and demanded Rs 20 crore in ransom. During investigation of the abduction case, Asif was killed in a police encounter.