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Arrested cleric ran Lashkar’s Nepal hub

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IN POLICE NET: Suspected key Lashkar functionary Mohammad Omar Madani being produced in court in New Delhi on Friday.
IN POLICE NET: Suspected key Lashkar functionary Mohammad Omar Madani being produced in court in New Delhi on Friday.

Praveen Swami

Madani funnelled operatives to targets across India: police

NEW DELHI: An alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba operative held on Thursday ran a logistical hub that funnelled dozens of jihadists through Nepal to targets across in India, Delhi Police sources have told The Hindu.

Working with fugitive Lashkar commander Mohammad Saifullah, Bihar-born Nepali national Mohammad Omar Madani provided Lashkar operatives with passports, cash and communications facilities that allowed them to travel from Pakistan to India through Kathmandu — and then secure their escape.

Fahim Arshad Ansari, who is now being tried on charges of having generated the videotape that facilitated the training of the perpetrators of November’s carnage in Mumbai, is among those alleged to have benefited from the logistical infrastructure Madani helped set up. Sabahuddin Ahmed, Ansari’s immediate superior and the first Indian national to have commanded a Lashkar field unit, also used the Lashkar’s transit hub.

Lured by lucre?

Madani’s journey into the Lashkar, Delhi police sources said, began after he tapped Nepali Islamists for funds to expand the family-run Shams-ul-Huda seminary at Kalyanpur, in Nepal’s Saptari district.

Nepal-based Jamaat Ahl-e-Hadis activists Abdul Khaliq and Mohammad Haroun are alleged to have put Madani in contact with the Markaz Dawat wal’Irshad —the name used by the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s parent organisation, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, prior to its proscription by Pakistan in 2002.

According to the Delhi police, Madani first attended the Markaz’s annual rally at Muridke, near Lahore, in 1997. He met with Markaz chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed — who was controversially released from house arrest in Pakistan earlier this week — as well as key military commanders Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi and then in-charge of operations targeting India, Mohammad Azam Cheema.

Delhi police sources said Madani had visited Pakistan at least twice in recent years and met Saeed on both occasions. He also spent time in Qatar raising funds for Islamist causes in Nepal.

Police believe Madani recruited upwards of two dozen residents of the India-Nepal borderlands to the Lashkar. Among them is Kamal Ahmed Ansari, who is now being tried for his alleged role in the 2006 bombing of Mumbai’s suburban train system.

Born in Balkatuwa village in Bihar’s Madhubani district, Saudi Arabia-educated Madani belongs to a locally-renowned clerical family.

His father, Shams-ul-Huda Madani, set the Jamia Islamia madrasa at Janakpur, just across the border in Nepal, more than two decades ago.

Speaking to journalists in New Delhi, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram described Madani’s arrest as “a measure of the good intelligence and good investigative work done by our intelligence agencies and police.”

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