July 22, 2006 2:22:33 am
Kenyan Police said that they had arrested one of India’s most-wanted terrorists, Lashkar-E-Toiba’s Abdul Karim Tunda, AFP reported on Friday.
Anti-terrorism police in Mombasa said they had detained Tunda and would be turning him over to prosecutors for possible extradition to India. ‘‘We arrested him today (Thursday) in Mombasa,’’ a senior police official told AFP on condition of anonymity. A second senior Mombasa police official confirmed that a man authorities had identified as Abdul Karim Tunda—who was once declared dead in Bangladesh—had been detained.
Tunda, in his late sixties, is wanted in India for 33 criminal cases, 40 blasts in Delhi and neighbouring states that left 21 dead and over 400 injured. He was the mastermind of the series of bomb blasts in New Delhi, Panipat, Sonepat, Ludhiana, Kanpur and Varanasi between December 1996 and January 1998.
At his house in Ghaziabad’s Pilakhuwa area—where Tunda ran a homeopathic shop in Loharan Mohalla in the ’80s—lives his younger brother Abdul Malik, 63, a carpenter, his only immediate family member alive. ‘‘I have nothing to do with him and have not heard from him since 1998. Any punishment given to him would be less… he is responsible for so many deaths,’’ Malik told The Indian Express.
Malik says Tunda fled his home in Ghaziabad in 1998 before a Delhi police team came looking for him. ‘‘One of my relatives was arrested and is in jail serving a life sentence for helping Tunda escape. I never knew of the entire matter then. Since then, he has never contacted us,’’ says Malik.
The Indian High Commission in Nairobi is working to make a confirmation after photographs of Tunda were dispatched by the government. If and when confirmed, the government will look to have Tunda deported. The External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said this evening: “We have asked our High Commission in Kenya for a confirmed report on the fact. When we have it, we will let you know.”
Tunda’s story dates back to the early ’80s when he was allegedly initiated into terrorism by the ISI and crossed over to Pakistan where he underwent training in making improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Nicknamed Tunda for a handicap in his left arm, sustained in the course of bomb-making, Abdul Karim’s association with the Islamic fundamentalism predates his association with Lashkar.
Back in India, he and another top LeT militant, Azam Ghouri, joined Tanzeem Islah-ul-Muslimeen floated by Ahl-e-Hadis militant group, to avenge the Babri Masjid demolition, say police. Tunda’s first terrorist feat, as per police records, was brainwashing Jalees Ansari, a doctor with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, who triggered over 40 blasts in Mumbai and Hyderabad during 1992 and 1993. After Jalees’s arrest in January 1994, Tunda fled to Dhaka, Delhi police say.
‘‘In Dhaka, Tunda started imparting training to jehadi elements in bomb-making. He was a specialist in detonating pencil battery bombs. He came back (from Dhaka) to India to mastermind the deadly ’96-98 blasts. In almost all the blasts in Delhi during 1996-98, Tunda’s men, who were from Pakistan and Bangladesh, had detonated bombs using pencil batteries,’’ says a top Delhi Police Special Cell officer.
The most devastating of these blasts was in a crowded private bus at Punjabi Bagh in Delhi in December 1997. The blast occurred when the bus, running between Ajmeri Gate and Nangloi, reached Rampura in Punjabi Bagh, killing four commuters and injuring 24 people. The breakthrough for the police came with the arrest of Tunda’s two Bangladeshi ‘students’, Mati-ur-Rehman and Akbar alias Haroon, from Sadar Bazar railway station in February 1998. Delhi police arrested 24 other members of the module, including Tunda’s confidants, Kamran and Shakeel. The militants, who addressed Tunda as Baba, told police that they triggered the blasts at his instance, as per Delhi police FIRs.
The hunt for Tunda died down in 2000 when Intelligence agencies believed a news item that Tunda had been killed in a blast in Bangladesh. Tunda returned to the surveillance radar in August 2005 when Abdul Razzak Masood, an alleged LeT chief coordinator in Dubai arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi police, disclosed that Tunda was alive and he had met him in Lahore in December 2003. Abdul also disclosed that Tunda had two wives and two sons.
Delhi police are now gearing up to bring Tunda to book. ‘‘We have received information that Tunda has been arrested. We will proceed accordingly now,’’ Delhi Police Joint CP (Special Cell) Karnal Singh says.
Tunda has been declared a proclaimed offender in the cases pending against him for the ’96-98 serial blasts.
The first conviction in the blast cases came in 2004 with a local Delhi court sentencing a Pakistani, Mohammad Hussain, to death. This year, on January 18, two Pakistanis, Aijaz Mohammed and Mohammed Hussain and their three Indian accomplices, were also sentenced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment by a Delhi court.
Two other co-accused, Mohammed Umar Ali and Mohammed Abdul Qasim, were sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment, for helping the five main accused and providing them with logistic support.
(with ENS & agencies)
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