Alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Afzal Mutalib Usmani,who was re-arrested from Bahraich on Sunday,had taken shelter at his nieces house 15 days ago by hiding his identity. According to his niece,she met Usmani after about 10 years and came to know about his actual identity when the Mumbai Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) arrived at her doorstep on Saturday morning.
Usmani was re-arrested from Rupaidiha railway station in Bahraich on Sunday afternoon,said Maharastra ATS. The station is around 70 km from Tatera village,where Usmani was staying at his niece Razia Khatoons house. Tatera is around 80 km from the India-Nepal border.
Usmani reportedly told Razia and the locals that he had recently returned from Saudi Arabia and wanted to buy a land for a shop in the area. Locals say he was a religious person and used to offer prayers five times a day. Out of the 2,500 people in the village,65 per cent are Muslims.
Usmani,who was arrested in September 2008 for allegedly supplying stolen vehicles to plant explosives for serial blasts in Ahmedabad and Surat in July 2008,had escaped from special MCOCA court in Mumbai where he was brought to attend a hearing last month.
Razia told The Indian Express that her brother Javed Noor-ul-Hasan Khan,who stays in Mumbais Azad Nagar slums,had come to her house with Usmani. He had identified Usmani as their mamu and said he would stay with her for a few days.
I could not recognise him because I got married when I was 12 and lost contact with my maternal relatives. He was staying at our house for the last 15 days. Most of the time he used to have his meals at a local hotel. I dont know much about him, said Razia.
Razia stays along with her husband Nizamuddin (24),two children and mother-in-law Jameela. Nizamuddin is a roadside vendor in Mumbai and had recently returned to the village,said Razia.
She added that on Saturday morning,a police team from Mumbai came to her house inquiring about Usmani and took away her husband. Usmani was not at home at that time. Nizamuddin,however,returned home the next day. He told us about Usmanis arrest. With this incident,we have learnt a big lesson, said Razia.
Station Officer of Fakharpur police station,Kali Charan,said two inspectors from Mumbai police had come to him on Saturday and sought his help in tracing an accused. He had sent four constables with the team to help them. The team brought Nizamuddin with them and questioned him about Usmanis whereabouts. He was let go after Usmani was arrested, Kali Charan said.
When contacted,Nizamuddins neighbour Lal Mohammad,said: Javed introduced Usmani to villagers as their maternal uncle. He was clean shaven. Usmani used to say that he had recently returned from Saudi Arabia and was looking for a land to open a shop. He had also contacted some local property dealers.
He added that Javed returned a few days after leaving Usmani at his sisters house. He had even promised a few villagers jobs in Saudi Arabia, said Mohammad.
Usmani had gained the confidence of the locals and mingled with them. He was also seen sitting with villagers at roadside tea stalls in the evening, said village pradhan Zakir Ali.