India: Four Members of Banned Group Arrested

Adeel Shah
2016.02.17
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160217-IN-escapee-620 Indian police search for evidence following a bomb attack at a train station in Chennai that killed one person, May 1, 2014. Officers arrested three prison escapees who are considered suspects in the attack, following a gun battle on Tuesday night.
AFP

Indian police identified three escapees and a fourth suspect who were arrested after a shootout in Odisha state late Tuesday, as members of the outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India.

Police said three suspects had escaped from a prison in October 2013 and were wanted on several charges, including participating in bomb attacks and other criminal activities. A woman was arrested as well.

“We have arrested five people and four of them are SIMI men,” Odisha Special Director General of State Intelligence Arun Sarangi told Benar News, referring to the banned militant group.

“We have recovered weapons, including pistols, from them after a brief exchange of fire.”

Those arrested have been identified as Sheikh Mehboob, Amjad Khan, Zakir Hussain and Mohammed Khalid.

“One woman identified as Najma has also been arrested,” Sarnagi said. “The woman is the mother of Mehboob and was wanted by Madhya Pradesh police.”

He said Odisha’s Special Operation Group conducted the three-hour operation, coordinating it with Telangana police.

“It was intermittent firing. We did not use assault rifles. Instead, pistols such as Glocks and MP-5s were used. About seven to eight rounds were fired by the security men while the operatives fired about two to three rounds. Soon, our men entered the premises and disarmed him,” Sarangi told The New Indian Express.

Four of the five suspects surrendered to police but the fifth suspect resisted, firing on police, he said.

“The area from where these men were arrested was a densely populated area. We were aware about the location of the house, but we proceeded very carefully to prevent collateral damage in the area. They had history of exploding bombs, so we had to take precautions during the entire operation,” Sarnagi told BenarNews.

The three suspects were among six people who escaped from a prison in Khanda, Madhya Pradesh, in 2013. Soon after the breakout, police arrested the group’s leader, identified as Abu Faisal. Two others were killed in an encounter as the fugitives tried to evade police checks.

Escapees linked to series of attacks

The Press Trust of India reported that while on the run, the three men were involved in terror activities in several states.

The trio are suspected of having been involved in a bank robbery in Karimnagar (Telangana) on Feb. 1, 2014, the bombing of a Bangalore-Guwahati train at the Chennai Central station, which killed a young software engineer on May 1, 2014, and an explosion near the Faraskhana and Vishrambag police stations in Pune on July 10, 2014, the report said.

A senior official at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) described the arrests as a big break.

“They were wanted in several cases in the country, including train blasts and robberies,” the official told BenarNews on condition of anonymity. “They can provide more details about their involvement while they were on the run.”

A security analyst agreed.

“If those arrested are the same group, which fled the jail in 2013, it is a significant arrest made by the police,” Bibhu Prasad Routray, a New Delhi-based security analyst told BenarNews.

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