The Delhi police Wednesday announced the arrest of Ariz Khan, a suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) member who fled the country after the 2008 Batla House encounter. While two IM suspects were gunned down in the encounter, Khan and another IM suspect Shezad had escaped.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special cell) PS Kushwaha confirmed the arrest and said Khan, also known as Junaid, was absconding since 2008 and was named in several serial blasts including Delhi in 2008 when 30 people were killed and at least 100 injured.
“He was also involved in blasts in Uttar Pradesh (2007), Jaipur (2008), Ahmedabad and Surat (2008). In all, 135 people were killed and over 400 injured,” Kushwaha told The Indian Express. “He was planning to revive terrorism in the country with the help of his associates.”
According to Kushwaha, Khan’s arrest was based on information from Abdul Subhan Qureshi alias Touqeer – the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts – who was arrested by the Special Cell on January 22. “Khan and Qureshi were staying in Nepal together and were teaching in a school after faking their identity,” he said. Police said Khan was arrested from Uttarakhand’s Banbasa where he had gone to meet an associate.
On September 19, 2008, Khan, a native of Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh and an engineering dropout, were allegedly hiding in house number L-18 in Batla House, Jamia Nagar in Delhi when the Special Cell raided the premises. “Atif Ameen and Mohammed Saif were gunned down while Mohammad Sajid alias Chotta Sajid was arrested from the room and two others escaped. Shezad was arrested later but Khan was on the run,” said Kushwaha.
The raid was conducted six days after serial blasts in Delhi’s Paharganj, Barakhamba Road, Connaught Place, Greater Kailash and Govindpuri and a shootout had ensued between the suspects and police. During the Batla House shootout, Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma was killed and awarded the Ashok Chakra in 2009.
While Delhi Police had announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh for information about Khan, the National Investigating Agency (NIA) had announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh.
According to police, Khan was a member of the IM’s Azamgarh module and was a suspected bomb maker. Police sources said Khan had bought wires and other materials needed to construct the explosive device from Delhi’s Lajpat Rai Market and had sourced explosives from Udupi in Karnataka.
Sources said Khan, after the shootout, spent several days travelling in trains and buses across Delhi and Uttar Pradesh and eventually managed to reach Nepal. “There he met Qureshi, who was also on run from agencies,” said a senior police officer.
Police said Khan managed to procure local identity cards and stayed in Nepal till 2014. “Then he made contact with Riyaz Bhatkal – an alleged terrorist – who motivated him to come to Dammam, Saudi Arabia to arranging financing to revive IM in India,” said Kushwaha.
According to Kushwaha, Khan managed to procure a Nepali Passport and in September 2014 travelled to Saudi Arabia. “As cover, he worked as a labourer and also met several SIMI-IM sympathizers. In March, 2017, he came back to Nepal from Saudi Arabia and clandestinely visited India to revive the IM,” he said.