NIA gets tentative identification from photographs

The National Investigation Agency is seeking a Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba operative it believes may have fabricated and helped plant an improvised explosive device that detonated outside the Delhi High Court on September 7, killing 15 people and injuring at least 80.

Ghulam Sarwar, a ranking LeT operative active for years in Jammu and Kashmir's Udhampur and Doda districts, was earlier named by investigators as the principal suspect in a May 2, 2011 attempt to assassinate Major General D.S. Pathania, the commandant of the Northern Army Command's base hospital.

Forensic experts told the NIA that the plastic explosive and remote-controlled detonator used in the Udhampur attack were similar to those fitted in the suitcase bomb that exploded outside the High Court.

Sarwar, the Jammu and Kashmir Police sources said, had been living undercover in the town of Thanamandi with documentation identifying him as a State subject — a prized document that gives residents special privileges. The identification had helped Sarwar, who married a local woman, to open trucking and taxi businesses. The NIA sources told The Hindu that Sarwar was tentatively identified from photographs by suspects already in custody, who knew him as “Abu Bilal.”

In addition to the two teenagers earlier held for sending an email claiming responsibility for the Delhi High Court attack — whose identity The Hindu is withholding because of their juvenile status — the NIA also held Kishtwar resident Wasim Ahmad Malik, a student at the Jalalabad Ragib-Rabea medical college near Sylhet, Bangladesh. The two teenagers have given confessional testimony to magistrates in New Delhi, saying Mr. Malik asked them to send the email.

The NIA detectives visited Bangladesh earlier this month to question Mr. Malik's friends at the medical college with the assistance of Bangladesh's intelligence service, the Directorate-General of Forces Intelligence — the first instance of direct counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries.

The investigations, the NIA sources said, threw up no evidence that Bangladeshi nationals were in any way involved with the attack. However, the sources alleged, Mr. Malik had been found to be involved with campus Islamist groups ideologically supportive of jihadist organisations.

Mr. Malik, who flew to India for his Eid vacations in late August, is alleged by the NIA to have contacted his brother, Junaid Akram Malik, and school friend Amir Kamaal, both alleged members of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in J&K, with a plan to target the Delhi High Court. The two men then contacted Sarwar.

Mr. Malik's family has disputed the NIA's version of events, saying the two arrested men had been coerced into naming him. Shameema Malik, Mr. Malik's mother, said on Friday that he had also been subjected to “intense torture.”

The NIA has denied the allegation. “Mr. Malik has been produced before doctors every two days,” a spokesperson for the organisation said, “and repeatedly told judges he has not been ill-treated.”