A key witness on Friday failed to appear before the court the Mumbai attack case and was reported missing from home, but police traced him late on Friday night.

Witness Nuruddin Shaikh, who had identified accused Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed in the court, had gone with his mother to a friend’s house and slept over there as he was not feeling well, Joint Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria said.

After he failed to turn up in the court on Friday, the crime branch officials went to his house in suburban Goregaon to fetch him but they were told by his wife that he had left early morning, saying that he was going to the court, he said.

The Crime Branch had formed three teams to locate him and was successful in tracing him, Mr. Maria said.

Shaikh’s cross examination was to be conducted on Thursday but the judge adjourned the matter.

The witness told the court on Thursday that Fahim and Sabauddin had met him in Nepal and in his presence they had discussed about the maps of some locations in Mumbai, which later turned out to be targets of the 26/11 attacks.

According to Shaikh, he had gone on a holiday in February 2008 to Nepal where he met his childhood friend Fahim. He added that Fahim took him to his guest house for a chat.

Fahim, however, disputed version of the witness that he was his childhood friend and said he had never met him before.

The prosecution’s case is that Lakhvi, chief of LeT operations, was one of the masterminds of 26/11 terror attack.

On the instructions of LeT, Fahim had drawn maps by hand after conducting a recee and were handed over to Sabauddin who in turn gave them to 26/11 conspirators.

Fahim and Sabauddin, both Indian nationals are facing the trial along with Pakistani gunman Ajmal Kasab.

Earlier, Judge M L Tahaliyani observed that, “This is a serious matter,” and said he would decide later on what steps should be taken.

Prosecutor Nikam said if this witness was not put through the cross—examination by defence lawyers the value of the evidence tendered by him against the accused in the examination—in—chief earlier would be lost. “This would seriously jeopardise our case,” he said.

In another development, an expert told the court that DNA samples of Kasab and slain terrorist Abu Ismael had matched samples taken from their clothes.

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