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One of the three men arrested from Madhya Pradesh for carrying out an explosion on board the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train on March 7 has told the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that the group had earlier planned to attack targets in Uttar Pradesh including a dargah in Barabanki, the Bara Imambara in Lucknow and a leading Shia cleric.
Official sources told The Indian Express that Syed Mir Husain, one of the three arrested from Pipariya in Hoshangabad district within hours of the blast, told NIA interrogators that the group wanted to attack the Waris Ali Shah dargah in Barabanki and had spent an entire day studying security arrangements and the movement of pilgrims at the dargah. Heavy security arrangements there, Husain told the NIA, made the group give up the idea.
Also on their hit-list were the Bara Imambara in Lucknow and Shia cleric Maulana Salman Hussaini Nadvi. The group, the NIA was told, had surveyed the cleric’s house and monitored his movements. They also took photographs of his house and two vehicles, a Bolero and a Skoda.
Syed Mir Husain, Mohammed Danish and Atif Muzaffar were held from Pipariya. A fourth accomplice, Saifullah, was killed in a gunfight with personnel of the UP anti-terror squad at a house on the outskirts of Lucknow. On March 16, the NIA took over the probe into the train blast case. The NIA took into its custody three of the seven arrested so far — Husain, Atif and Danish are in NIA custody until March 27.
Husain told his NIA interrogators that they went to several places in and around Lucknow to “fix the targets, to implement the sharia law, to have a jihad and to have bomb blasts and commit murder at fixed places” before “settling down in Arab or other countries”.
NIA sources said Husain, Danish, Atif and Saifullah reached visited the Barabanki dargah in the first week of February and took photographs of the mazar on the mobile phones of Atif and Danish. The accused identified four locations inside the dargah precincts as the “best places” for placing bombs — a small room in the mazar where a lot of people gather; entry-exit gate of the mazar; the place where shoes are left; and, the qawwali area. They had also monitored the crowds at the shrine on Jummerat, making videos of the flow of pilgrims, sources said.
They found that the maximum rush at the mazar was from 9 am to 3.30 pm, and that there was heavy police presence throughout the day – the reason why they could place any bomb there, sources said.
The accused also carried out a reconnaissance of the Bara Imambara in Lucknow and visited it on the the last three Fridays of February — people gather there on a Friday to pray. They also took photographs of locations at the Imambara.