How DNA samples from a Beed family identified a suicide bomber in Saudi

From alert by Maharashtra ATS to tests in Saudi Arabia, the identification of 2016 bomber. The bomber’s identity was established on the basis of DNA samples from Kagzi’s family.

Written by Rashmi Rajput | Mumbai | Updated: May 2, 2018 7:08:12 am
Indian Fayaz Kagzi identified as Saudi suicide bomber Fayaz Kagzi of Beed was an alleged LeT operative.

On July 4, 2016, a man blew himself up outside the US Consulate in Jeddah. Security officials have now said that Saudi Arabia has confirmed the identity of the bomber as Fayaz Kagzi, an Indian national and alleged operative of the Lashkar-e-Taiba who is suspected to have joined the Islamic State later.

He was identified on the basis of DNA tests. Every person’s DNA profile is unique — except among identical twins, who have the same DNA. The variation in key DNA markers in tested samples — blood, saliva, muscle, etc — is hereditary, and these can therefore be used to identify heredity.

The bomber’s identity was established on the basis of DNA samples from Kagzi’s family. “Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad raised suspicions about the identity of the bomber after photographs released by Saudi Arabian authorities resembled those of Kagzi, and a Letter Rogatory was sent,” an intelligence official said. “Saudi Arabian authorities sought DNA samples of Kagzi’s family members.”

Read | Saudi DNA tests confirm 2016 Jeddah bomber was Indian

In October 2017, a team of ATS and Mumbai Forensic Science Laboratory officials reached the Kagzi home in Beed and collected their DNA samples. Within a month the samples travelled to the Home Ministry in New Delhi and from there to Saudi Arabia.

The bomber was initially thought to be Pakistani driver Abdullah Qalzar Khan, 34, who lived in Jeddah, before the Saudi authorities informed India that he was in fact Kagzi, officials said.

Indian Fayaz Kagzi identified as Saudi suicide bomber Suicide bombers struck in Medina, Jeddah and Qatif on July 4, 2016. (AP File Photo)

DNA profiling can be difficult in such cases. “In a suicide attack, the bomber blows himself up and therefore it becomes difficult to collect samples,” Mumbai FSL director Dr Krishna Kulkarni said. “FSL teams comb the spot to collect every possible sample suspected to be connected to the bomber.”

While it is not immediately clear what markers the Saudi authorities used, Dr Kulkarni described the procedures followed in India. “In India, we follow tests with 16 genetic markers and only those samples that match 50% of the gene pool of the mother and 50% of the gene pool of the father are considered to have the same DNA,” said Dr Kulkarni. “DNA tests using samples of the femur bone or the tooth give the most accurate results. Also, one has to take a lot of precautions to ensure there is no degradation of the samples because if bacteria sets in, the test cannot be conducted. The samples need to be preserved well.”

Kagzi is suspected to have been the mastermind and financier of the 2010 and 2012 blasts in Pune. Allegedly a close associate of 26/11 handler Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, Kagzi was a wanted accused in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case in which Jundal is currently facing trial. Kagzi is also on the CBI’s Interpol list of wanted accused. While Kagzi had not been shown as a wanted accused in 26/11, sources say he had taught Hindi to the ten attackers including Ajmal Kasab.

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