NIA has formally arrested Lokesh Sharma,already in judicial custody in connection with the Samjhauta train bombing case,for his alleged role in the 2008 Malegaon blast.
Sharma was on Monday produced before the special MCOCA court of Y D Shinde who remanded him to NIA custody till March 9. The special court had issued a production warrant against the accused on February 23.
The agency said Sharma needs to be questioned in connection with the September 29,2008,Malegaon blast in which six people were killed.
NIA had failed in its attempt to seek his custody from the Panchkula court on February 22.
While officially the probe agency,formed in the aftermath of 26/11 Mumbai attacks,was tightlipped,sources privy to the developments said Sharma’s questioning was necessary after the interrogation of Kamlesh Chouhan,an alleged planter of bombs in the Samjhuta train.
Sharma,a close associate of Sunil Joshi (the suspected ‘mastermind’ behind the blasts who was later murdered),allegedly planted a bomb on Samjhauta Express.
The Indore resident’s name has cropped up in Ajmer blasts and Mecca Masjid blasts of Hyderabad. He was arrested on June 17,2010 for the Ajmer blasts and on June 18,2011 for Samjhauta blasts where the probe agency alleged that he was also one of the suspects who planted the bomb.
NIA has been given charge of terror cases which include Malegaon 2006 and 2008,Ajmer (Rajasthan),Samjhauta train blasts and Mecca-Masjid (Hyderabad).
Investigations into the Malegaon blast case had led the probe agency to suspect the hand of Hindu terror outfits.
The then Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare,who was killed in the 26/11 attacks,was instrumental in the arrest of co-conspirators including a serving army officer,Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit.
ATS also arrested Sadhvi Pragya Singh as her bike was used in the blast,Shivnarayan Gopalsingh Kalsangra (electrician from Indore who assembled the bomb) and Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu (owns mobile servicing centre at Bhopal).
Besides Purohit,others accused in the chargesheet were Maj (retd) Ramesh Shivji Upadhyaya (Pune resident,accused of imparting training and taught bomb making),Sameer Sharad Kulkarni alias Chanakya Sameer (helped procure material for making the bomb),Ajay alias Raja Rahirkar (Pune-based treasurer of Abhinav Bharat) and Rakesh Dattatreya Dhawade (Pune-based weapons expert who helped procure weapons).
Jagdish Chintaman Mhatre (helped store weapons),Sudhakar Udaybhan Dhar Dwivedi alias Dayanand Pandey alias Swami Amrutanand Devtirth (self-proclaimed Shankaracharya,resident of Jammu and Kashmir and a key conspirator),Sudhakar Onkarnath Chaturvedi (weapons were seized from him,was part of planning) and Pravin Mutalik (planted bomb).
The case,which was transferred to NIA,has two proclaimed offenders Ramji alias Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange (both bomb planters).