Ariz Khan alias Junaid, an alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative — who was on the run since the 2008 Batla House encounter and was arrested in Delhi Wednesday — is set to be interrogated by a team of Uttar Pradesh’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS). “Ariz Khan was wanted in the Lucknow court blast case. A team of the UP ATS will leave for Delhi to interrogate him,” IG (ATS) Asim Kumar Arun said, adding that they are scanning records to see if Ariz was involved in other cases as well.
Apart from the 2008 Delhi serial blasts, Ariz is an accused in the Lucknow court blast case of November 23, 2007. Thirteen people were killed in serial blasts in courts of Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi the same day. Nine people were killed in Varanasi while four died in Faizabad. An RDX bomb was recovered from a bicycle outside the Lucknow court, where no casualty was reported. Ariz’s family members claim they had no information about him since his escape in 2008.
“I came to know about his arrest this afternoon when officers from the local police station came to my place,” said his uncle Dr Fakhrey Alam.
Ariz’s two brothers, along with their mother, have been living at Nasirpur village near Bilariyaganj police station area of Azamgarh.
His father Jafrey Alam Khan, who was employed in Saudi Arabia, died of cardiac arrest around eight years ago, Dr Alam said.
Ariz’s elder brother Shariq works for a private firm in Delhi while his younger brother Tabish helps Dr Alam at his clinic.
“We last spoke to Ariz before the 2008 Batla House encounter. After that, we were not in touch with him and had no information about him. Investigative agencies, however, used to regularly visit us to collect information about him,” Dr Alam said.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had declared a reward of Rs 10 lakh for clues on Ariz’s whereabouts. The UP Police had earlier claimed that the UP blasts were the handiwork of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) and had arrested alleged HuJI operatives Tariq Qasmi and Khalid Mujahid (now dead) on December 22, 2007, followed by the arrest of Tariq Hussain alias Mohammad Akhtar on December 27 the same year.
In 2008, police claimed the Lucknow blast was executed by both HuJI and IM, after the latter claimed responsibility for the serial court blasts. Alleged IM operative Mohammad Arif, who was arrested after the Batla House encounter, had said that he and Ariz planted the bomb at the Lucknow court, ATS claimed. ATS had filed the chargesheet against Arif in the Lucknow case but the trial is yet to begin.
“The trial against Tariq and Mohammad Akhtar is pending in court. The case has reached the stage of argument. The next date for hearing is on Thursday,” said advocate Mohammad Shoaib, who is representing Mohammad Akhtar.