Lucknow encounter: UP police backtracks, says no evidence of ISIS links
The Anti-Terrorist Squad of the Uttar Pradesh Police gunned down an alleged terrorist after a 12-hour long operation, which began around 4 pm on Tuesday and ended in the wee hours of Wednesday.
The deceased was identified as Saifullah. His father has refused to take the body of his 'traitor' son.
The ADG, law and order, UP, Daljit Chaudhary, said that he was part of a 'self-radicalised group' which raised finances on its own. Neither Saifullah or others linked to him were part of any extremist group, Chaudhary said..
The police's initial version was that Saifullah was influenced by ISIS, and had formed the Islamic State's Khorasan module. However, this was later denied by the ADG. Chaudhary said on Wednesday evening that there was no evidence of any links with ISIS.
As the UP police action came on the eve of voting for the final phase of UP elections many believed that it was done to influence voters.
Responding to the encounter, the advocacy group Rihai Manch has claimed that it was nothing but an attempt to polarise voters ahead of the last day of polling in Uttar Pradesh.
However, politicians, cutting across party lines, denied any polarising effect of the crackdown in Wednesday’s voting.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s Vijay Bahadur Pathak said: “Everyone is complimenting the security forces for their coordinated effort to nab the terrorists.”
Congress spokesman S. Madaan said that the manner in which the security forces tried to make Saifullah surrender should be appreciated. “Nobody is looking at the encounter from the angle you are suggesting,” he said.
Sequence of events
Detailing the sequence of events, Chaudhary said after an IED blast in the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train, the Madhya Pradesh police arrested three persons belonging to UP. They were identified as Danish Akhtar alias Zafar, Syed Mir Hussain alias Hajma and Atish Muzaffar alias al-Qasim.
All three had allegedly been staying with Saifullah in the Haji Colony, which falls under the Kakori Police Station, for over a month.
Based on the input given by their MP counterparts, the UP police raided locations in “Etawah, Auraiya, Kanpur and Lucknow and arrested Faisal Khan and Fakhre Alam”, the ADG said, adding that “two more are facing action”. He did not elaborate.
About the suspect in Kanpur who managed to escape, Chaudhary said that the police had all details about his contacts, phone numbers and possible hideouts, and assured that he would be nabbed soon.
The police tried to persuade Saifullah into surrendering. The ADG said a 'maulana' who stayed in the neighbourhood also explained to Saifullah that what he was doing was wrong and that he should come out. The help of Saifullah’s brother was also sought. Chaudhary said that he spoke to Saifullah from Kanpur on his mobile urging him to give up, but he did not.
Holes were drilled in the roof and wall of the house and chilli bombs were thrown also with the same intention but, Chaudhary said, Saifullah responded with several rounds of fire at the security personnel.
He said the restraint was used to ensure that Saifullah was nabbed alive.
Eventually the door was cut and, the police press note said Saifullah was shot when he came face to face with the cops at around 3 am.
Eight revolvers of .32 bore, 630 live cartridges, explosive material, dry cells, cast iron pipes, clock timers, six mobile phones and four SIM cards, radical literature, some maps, compass and other material was recovered from the spot.
Propaganda material was also found in the mobile recovered from Faisal Khan, who was arrested from Kanpur. The propaganda material, the police claimed, had been forwarded to several persons. Faisal has been arrested under the Unlawful Activity Prevention Act of 1967.
Initially, there were reports that the literature was influenced by ISIS. But the police later denied any ISIS angle.
During the encounter it was said that there were one or two more persons with Saifullah. Clarifying on the confusion the ADG said that as the police personnel were being fired at from different locations it was presumed that there was more than one person inside the house.
The almost night-long encounter was a first for Lucknow though it is not unfamiliar with acts of terrorism.
Many questions are being raised regarding the encounter itself and the alleged ISIS links of the deceased. Some say that if not the encounter, the ISIS rumours were fanned keeping in mind the last day of polling in UP.