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Ambani bomb scare: NIA collects phones seized from jailed IM chief

The NIA collected the phones from the Delhi Police Special Cell office in Lodhi Colony last week. Highly placed sources said the agency is looking into evidence against a senior officer of the Mumbai Police, after which permission would be sought for his arrest.

The car outside Mukesh Ambanis' residence in Mumbai. (Express Photo/File)

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) team probing the bomb scare outside industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s Mumbai residence has taken into possession two cellphones recovered from Tehseen Akhtar, the alleged chief of the Indian Mujahideen, who is lodged in Tihar Jail.

Akhtar has accepted that the two Android phones belong to him, but denied sending the messages shared over the Telegram app on them, which claim responsibility for the explosives found in an SUV outside Ambani’s house in the name of purported terror outfit Jaish-ul-Hind.

The NIA collected the phones from the Delhi Police Special Cell office in Lodhi Colony last week. Highly placed sources said the agency is looking into evidence against a senior officer of the Mumbai Police, after which permission would be sought for his arrest.

Akhtar is believed to have taken over as head of the IM after the arrest of its co-founder Yasin Bhatkal in 2013, and is one of the accused in the Mumbai blasts of 2011. The phones had been recovered from his barracks during a search operation by Tihar Jail authorities along with the New Delhi Range of Delhi Police Special Cell on March 11.

“Police found that the cellphones were being used by him since October. The Tihar Jail administration also conducted an internal inquiry to ascertain how he got the cellphones, but they failed to identify anyone,” a senior jail official said.

Sources told The Indian Express that a team of the New Delhi Range first questioned Akhtar inside the prison complex, and he said the devices were being used by six other prison inmates as well, including a member of the Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). “Police seized both the cellphones, and sent them for forensic examination, but they did not find anything. Akhtar was later questioned by the NIA as well, and he again denied sending the messages (related to the Ambani bomb scare case),” sources said.

Earlier, The Indian Express had reported that a private cyber firm deployed by an investigating agency had tracked the location of the phones from which the messages were sent to Tihar Jail, and this had been communicated to the Delhi Police Special Cell.

Several police officers have been arrested in the case, including Assistant Inspector Sachin Waze, Assistant Inspector Riyaz Kazi, Inspector Sunil Mane, suspended constable Vinayak Shine (all four since dismissed); and retired ACP and ‘encounter specialist’ Pradeep Sharma. Apart from them, Santosh Shelar, a history-sheeter, his aide Anand Jadhav, Naresh Gaur, a bookie, as well as Manish Soni and Satish Mothkuri, associates of Pradeep Sharma, are under arrest.

The policemen are accused of involvement in the conspiracy to plant explosives near the Ambani residence in an SUV, and the subsequent murder of a man linked to the vehicle.

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