Faizan Azmi alias Faizan Ahmed Sultan, the UAE-based laundry businessman who was arrested on May 2 by the NIA, allegedly helped procure Sharjah work visas for five suspected Indian Mujahideen operatives in 2009 as they attempted to flee India in the wake of a police crackdown after the September 2008 Batla House encounter in Delhi.
Azmi is said to have facilitated the visas for Salman alias Fahad Ansari alias Chhotu, Dr Shahnawaz Alam, Mohammed Khalid, Mohammed Sajid alias Bada Sajid — all currently on the NIA’s most wanted list — and Abu Rashid Sheikh alias Danda.
The role of Faizan Azmi in allegedly helping the five escape to the Gulf emerged during the interrogation of Salman, the only person from the group that escaped to have been arrested. Salman was held in 2010.
A copy of the statement given to police by Salman — this was filed as part of court documents in the Bangalore Chinnaswamy Stadium blast case of April 17, 2010 — states that the group from Azamgarh linked to the IM made a desperate bid to flee the country after September 2008.
Salman told his interrogators that he along with Dr Shahnawaz, Khalid, Abu Rashid and Sajid went into hiding at the house of Dr Ashan in Sanjarpur soon after the Batla House encounter.
According to Salman, Dr Shahnawaz, who was then working at the Mayo Hospital in Lucknow, sought help from many quarters to flee the country.
“Dr Shahnawaz approached Bada Sajid’s brother Shakir for help. Shakir contacted a Nepali Congress leader Khurshed who agreed to shelter us at a school he was running,” Salman said in his statement to police.
The group reportedly managed to escape to Nepal in early 2009. “After we reached Nepal, Dr Shahnawaz sought Khurshed’s help again to provide us Nepali passports. He provided us passports under fake identities,” Salman said.
Once the passports arrived, the group allegedly initiated efforts to escape to the Gulf. “Around this time Azamgarh resident Faizan Azmi, who was working in Sharjah, sent work visas for Dr Shahnawaz and Abu Rashid. They went to Sharjah. Later, Dr Shahnawaz sent a visa for Khalid, Bada Sajid and myself and all of us landed in Sharjah,” Salman told police.
“Faizan Azmi picked us up from the airport and put us up at the Abuten apartment in front of the Madina Super Market in Sharjah. I was working in Faizan Azmi’s laundry. I worked there for a month,” Salman’s statement says.
According to Salman, the group also met top IM leaders Amir Reza Khan, Iqbal Bhatkal and Riyaz Bhatkal while they were in Sharjah, and that Dr Shahnawaz, Khalid and he later travelled to Pakistan for training at the behest of Amir Reza Khan.