S. Anandan

To investigate visit of terror suspect Rana

Another team scheduled to reach Kozhikode

Kochi: A team of National Investigation Agency (NIA) officers, led by an inspector-general of police, has arrived here on Wednesday to conduct an investigation into the visit of terror suspect Tahawwur Hussain Rana to the city in November 2008.

The NIA, which has registered a case against US citizen David Coleman Headley and his accomplice, Pakistan-born Canadian national Rana, had earlier despatched an officer of the Deputy Superintend of Police rank to carry out preliminary inquiries into Rana’s Kochi visit from the evening of November 16 till noon November 17.

In the meantime, the Kozhikode twin blasts case had also been handed over to the agency.

A separate NIA team led by Mukesh Singh, a senior NIA officer, is slated to arrive in Kozhikode on Wednesday night to start probing the case.

Consultancy as cover

Rana, who operated an immigration consultancy in Chicago, allegedly used it as a cover to visit along with a woman, Samraz Akhtar, several Indian cities, including Kochi, just over a week ahead of the Mumbai terror attack on November 26, 2008.

Intelligence sources point out that while in Kochi, Rana contacted an old acquaintance — a businessman from Ernakulam town with NRI links who he had first met in the U.S. — with the intention of mooting a franchise of his immigration consultancy, but that failed to fructify.

No trail

Interestingly, Rana left pretty nothing by way of a ‘trail’ of his short stay here. Various agencies involved in unearthing the purpose of his visit questioned almost every local person Rana met — from the cabbies to the visa-seekers — but they had to be content with fragmented pieces of information as most enquiries hit a dead-end.

Bail denied

Rana and Headley, were arrested by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in October for allegedly plotting attacks in India and Denmark. A U.S. court denied Rana bail on Tuesday.