A man who was reportedly helping the National Investigation Agency (NIA) track alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives Hyder Ali and Tehseen Akhtar disappeared without informing investigators in Muzaffarpur on Thursday,triggering reports about the “escape” of a “suspect” in the Patna bombings case.
The NIA issued a clarification in the evening saying the man,Mehre Alam of Darbhanga,”was called as only a witness and was not arrested,(and) therefore the question of his escape from NIA custody does not arise”.
Also in the evening,a man who apparently resembled Alam was reported to have been held in Kanpur. Security agencies said they were checking his identity.
The NIA note said Alam had been asked on October 23 – before the Patna attack – to appear on October 29 at the NIA’s camp office in Bodh Gaya “as a witness in connection with the investigation… (into the) illegal activities of Indian Mujahideen”.
However,Alam,having learnt that the NIA team was camping at Patna in connection with Patna serial blasts,voluntarily came to Ranchi . According to the NIA,he “disclosed that one of the NIA accused (Hyder Ali),who is also an accused in Patna serial blasts case,was hiding at a certain place in village Mirpur of district Muzaffarpur”.
According to the release,Alam accompanied NIA and Bihar Police investigators to Mirpur in the midnight of 29-30 October,but Hyder Ali could not be found.
“The teams came back to Muzaffarpur and housed themselves in Siddharth lodge,Muzaffarpur,” the statement said. “Mehre Alam who was staying in one of the rooms along with NIA and local police personnel,left the room in the morning of October 30 on the pretext of attending the call of nature. Thereafter he did not come back and left the lodge. After searching for him in the adjoining areas,the NIA team gave a report to the SHO of the local thana for necessary action,” the statement said.
NIA officers said Alam,who is allegedly a SIMI sympathiser,met Hyder a few weeks before the Patna bombings. Hyder – along with Tehseen – is the top suspect in the Bodh Gaya blasts of July 7,and has been on the NIA’s radar.
The agency on Thursday detained another Muzaffarpur man called Mohammed Aftab,with whom Hyder Ali had allegedly been in touch. Aftab was picked up at New Delhi airport,where he had gone to receive his wife,who is a Pakistani national. The wife too was detained.
Aftab reportedly runs a computer training institute in Muzaffarpur. NIA officials said they have sought a forensic examination of his laptop,which may have been used to communicate with Hyder and Tehseen.
Top sources in the Bihar Police said Mehre Alam had been tapped by the NIA to examine possible links between the blasts at Bodhgaya and Patna. Watches of ‘Lotus’ company had been used as timers in both cases.
The sources said Mohammed Imtiaz Ansari,who had allegedly come to Patna from Ranchi along with four others to plant the bombs,but who was caught at Patna railway station after the first blast,too had been in touch with Alam.
According to the sources,Alam,a resident of Sidhauli village near Hayaghat in Darbhanga,was questioned by the NIA at his village on October 28. Alam had apparently offered to help,and the next day,the NIA had called him to Patna. Alam had taken his father Mohammed Mehmood and some villagers along,but the NIA investigators had reportedly sent everyone except Alam back.
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