NIA arrests another suspect in Ranchi; conspiracy was hatched in April

The third suspect in the Patna serial blasts case was arrested on Wednesday at Motihari in East Champaran district of Bihar. Preliminary interrogation revealed that the conspiracy for Sunday’s blasts, which killed six persons, was hatched in April this year.

Also on Wednesday, the National Investigation Agency arrested Ojair Ahmad, another suspect, in Ranchi. He was detained for questioning on Monday.

The man arrested at Motihari was identified as Tabish Niyaz alias Arshad Ansari, a resident of Alauli, Manu Maharaj, Senior Superintendent of Police, Patna, told journalists.

Acting on inputs from the investigating agencies, the Motihari police detained him and handed him over to the Patna police, who will take him on remand.

Though Tabish was not named in the First Information Report, he was one of the main accused, Mr. Maharaj said. His name would be added to the FIR. He was also an alleged member of the Indian Mujahideen and was associated for three years with Hyder, another accused who is at large.

The police said Tabish carried out reconnaissance of the Gandhi maidan and its surrounding areas on October 8, 9 and 10, while staying at a hotel in Patna. However, he was not present in the city on the day of the blasts, which coincided with a rally addressed by BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

As a co-conspirator, his role involved planning.

“The planning was to place 19-20 bombs. They came with approximately 20 bombs. As per Imtiaz’s statement, 18 bombs were planted, and all have been accounted for, but we are not going by his statement,” the police said.

The six accused, including key IM operative Tehseen Akhtar, escaped metal detectors because the bombs contained carbon that helped to avoid detection.

Tabish’s house in Motihari was supposed to be used as a “retreat” by the accused after the blasts, investigations have revealed.

Tabish named Imtiaz Ansari, who is under arrest, as the mastermind of the blast. Tabish is a graduate in psychology, a student of Doranda College in Ranchi. He worked with an NGO. Though a resident of Motihari, Tabish spent most of his life in Ranchi and fell in with many youths influenced by Tehseen, the police said.

The other suspects, Imtiaz Ansari and Ainul alias Tariq, are also from Ranchi. The six named as accused in the FIRs, including the alleged mastermind Tehseen Akhtar, came to Patna from Ranchi on separate buses, carrying bombs.

At this stage, seven have been named as accused, three have been arrested and four are at large. The condition of Ainul alias Tariq is still critical, and the police said the chances of his survival were slim as he suffered a severe brain injury.

So far, 18 bombs have been recovered. Six of them exploded and seven were recovered on the Gandhi maidan over three days. At the Patna railway station, two bombs exploded and three were recovered.

Ojair Ahmad, who worked as a chief electrician at the office of a Hindi daily, was detained from his Doranda residence for questioning on Monday. He was arrested and produced in the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Ranchi on Wednesday and taken into transit remand before being flown to Delhi.

“Ojair admitted to his role in raising and distributing funds regularly to Imtiaz Ansari and other suspects for carrying out these activities. He confessed that he had given Rs.25,000 each to all four suspects from Ranchi before the blasts. The police had questioned him once earlier this year for his alleged links with Haidar who was on our watch. But, at the time, he claimed that he had not been in touch with Haidar for two years. His name resurfaced in what Imtiaz revealed,” said a senior Jharkhand police officer.

Of the four other suspects who lived at Seethio in Ranchi — Imtiaz Ansari, Imtiaz’s nephew Taufiq Ansari, Tariq alias Ainul and Noman Ansari — Imtiaz and Tariq were arrested. Tariq was injured in the blast at the Patna station and Taufiq Ansari and Noman Ansari are absconding.

Officials said the evidence had established the presence of an Indian Mujahideen module in Jharkhand’s districts, including Ranchi and Ramgarh. “Of the six suspects in the Patna blasts, four are from Ranchi. Tehseen Akhtar and Haidar, who are part of the IM leadership, visited Ranchi regularly. There is a clear-cut link as activities were organised with Jharkhand as a base,” Jharkhand Director-General of Police Rajeev Kumar said. In March, Manzar Imam, a suspected IM agent, was arrested in Ranchi.

On Wednesday afternoon, the NIA sealed one of the five rooms occupied by Imtiaz at his residence at Seethio, 15 km off Ranchi. Officials said they had earlier recovered several watches from Imtiaz’s room, which might have been used as timers for bombs. “The watches were the same brand [Lotus] and the same lot [2012] as those found on the site of the Bodh Gaya blasts; so links may emerge between the two incidents,” a senior police officer said.