Updated: September 19, 2021 6:43:04 pm
The Gujarat Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) arrested a wanted man who is part of the “Nagori gang” of Surat from a town in Maharashtra on Sunday and booked him under the stringent Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GUJCTOC) Act.
The arrested, Ashraf Nagori, a resident of Lal Gate in Surat, was one of the accused in the assassination of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya but was later acquitted by the court. He served seven years in Sabarmati Central jail from 2003 to 2010 after he was booked under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) in the “Jihadi conspiracy” case of Gujarat Police in 2003.
According to ATS, on January 11 this year, Nagori and four of his associates — Mohammad Firoz alias Ghajni, Mohammad Arif Nagori, Wasim Qureshi and Abdul Samad Shaikh — were booked under the GUJCTOC Act in an FIR lodged at the Lal Gate police station in Surat city.
Nagori was believed to have fled Surat after the FIR was lodged and has been absconding since. He was held from Navapur taluka under Nandurbar district of Maharashtra by an ATS team on Sunday.
“After an FIR under GUJCTOC was lodged against Nagori, he fled from Surat and reached West Bengal where he started living with a fake name. After three-four months, he changed his location and reached Navapur taluka of Nandurbar in Maharashtra. On a tip-off, an ATS team held him and brought him to Ahmedabad on Sunday. He is currently being interrogated and will be handed over to Surat police,” said a senior ATS officer.
According to police, Nagori and one other accused Mufti Tahir were first booked under the POTA for an attempted murder in 2003 by the Gujarat Police after they had allegedly fired at Bharatiya Janata Party corporator and lawyer Hasmukh Lalwala in Surat of Gujarat as “revenge for the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat”. In 2003, he was booked for the assassination of Haren Pandya.
Combining several such criminal cases, the Gujarat Police in 2003 made a larger case of the “jihadi conspiracy” case claiming that Pakistan’s ISI-backed terrorist elements were targeting BJP leaders in Gujarat over the communal riots. A total of 54 persons, including Nagori, were arrested in the case.
A special POTA court sentenced Nagori and Tahir for seven years in jail in 2005 for the attempt to murder case which was upheld by the Gujarat High Court in 2010. Nagori was again arrested in 2013 by Surat Police’s Detection of Crime Branch for allegedly possessing 11 handguns and ammunition and was later booked under the Prevention of Anti Social Activities (PASA) Act in 2013 and 2015. He has also been banished (tadipaar) from Surat by the city police in 2019 and 2020 for his alleged criminal activities.
“The accused has been involved in over 25 criminal cases in Surat involving the firing at Hasmukh Lalwala, jihadi conspiracy case and arms racket case. The cases against him pertain to attempt to murder, extortion, firing, robbery, fraud among others,” said an ATS official.
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