Khagragarh blast: 6 JMB suspects inlcuding alleged mastermind Yusuf Sheikh held
After Kolkata Police arrested six persons on 26 September - all members of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) - for the 2014 Khagragarh blast in West Bengal's Burdwan, it has emerged that the mastermind behind the terror attack is Yusuf Sheikh alias Maulana Shiekh.
Sheikh, second-in-command in the state, was also instrumental in setting up the Simulia madrasa in Burdwan from where the operations have been carried forward. The blast, which took place in October 2014, killed two suspected JMB leaders.
The other five arrested by the Special Task Force of Kolkata Police on the basis of the chargesheet submitted by the NIA are - head of the outfit's West Bengal unit Anwar Hussain Farooq, Sahidul Islam, Mohammed Rubel, Abdul Kalam and Jahidul Islam.
The six have been charged under IPC Sections 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging of war against government), 121(A) (conspiracy to commit offences punishable by section 121), 122 (collecting arms), 123 (concealing with intent to facilitate design to wage war), 124(A) (sedition).
Top officials in Kolkata Police said that Sheikh belongs to the Cachar district of Assam. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) in its report confirmed that he set up the Simulia madrasa in Burdwan long before the blast. The JMB provided funds to set up the madrasa in 2009 and to train up local youths so that they could be used in carrying out operations in Bengal.
Sheikh also trained some local Muslim girls and asked them to lure more women to come study at the madrasa.
Sources say that apart from setting up the madrasa, Sheikh used to keep contact with JMB leaders in Bangladesh and was the one who appointed Farooq as the leader of JMB in Nannoor district in Birbhum in West Bengal.
Vishal Garg joint police commissioner (Crime) said, "Within days of Khagragarh blast, it was learnt that the operatives went to South India or north eastern states and were planning to set up a base for undergoing subversive activities in some of the locations."
Sources said that these persons were also planning some subversive activities outside Bengal. They also confirmed that Farooq masterminded an attack on a police van in Trishul Bangladesh in November 2014.
The STF has also found fake identity cards, several mobile phones, a detonator and Bangaldeshi and Indian currency notes worth a lakh.
The Burdwan blast
On 2 October 2014, a grenade explosion tore though the first floor of a rented house in Khagragarh in Burdwan town on 2 October 2014.
Two persons identified as Shakil Ahmed alias Shakil Gazi and Swapan alias Sovan Mandal, died. Both were believed to have links with the JMB. Their widows - Gulshana Bibi alias Rajia, Shakil's wife, and Alima Bibi alias Amina, Halim's wife - were arrested and interrogated. Abdul Halim, a third person, was seriously injured in the blast and shifted from the Burdwan Medical College to Kolkata for treatment and later he survived.
What has the investigation revealed so far?
So far, the investigation has largely been based on revelations by the two women. The links between the deceased men indicate a large-scale operation to make improvised explosives. The architecture of the bombs is similar to the ones used by Darbhanga module of the Indian Mujahideen to target a rally addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Patna before the 2014 general elections.
The arrested women have also revealed that two men killed in the Burdwan blast were responsible for picking up raw material from Kolkata for manufacturing the bombs.
The government's stand
The BJP-led government at the Centre believes the state government in West Bengal was scuttling the probe into the Burdwan incident. The initial tardy response of the West Bengal Police led to spat between the two governments. The case was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on the Centre's insistence.
The National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval also visited the area and met chief minister Mamata Banerjee to reiterate the seriousness of the threat from the JMB. The chief minister protested that while she welcomed the NIA probe, she was upset her government was kept out of the loop of the investigation.
BJP president Amit Shah, addressing a rally in Kolkata alleged there were linkages between the Burdwan blast investigation and the Trinamool Congress, but investigators say that such a link is yet to be established. Clearly, the case has now become a political war of words between the BJP, hoping to make gains in the state, and the ruling TMC.
Edited by Aleesha Matharu