Bengaluru cafe blast probe: NIA arrests LeT terror case ex-convict

NIA claims the ex-convict was the link between the alleged bombers and an ‘online handler’ suspected to be abroad

Updated - May 24, 2024 10:23 pm IST

Published - May 24, 2024 09:38 pm IST - Bengaluru

The scene at The Rameshwara Cafe after the blast on March 1.

The scene at The Rameshwara Cafe after the blast on March 1. | Photo Credit: file photo

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday (May 24) arrested an ex-convict in a Lashkar-e-Taiba terror conspiracy case as the fifth accused in The Rameshwaram Cafe blast case.

Shoaib Ahmed Mirza alias Chhotu, 35, a resident of Hubballi city, who served a sentence in the case and was out of jail, has allegedly emerged as the key link to the Thirthahalli module that allegedly carried out the blast at The Rameshwaram Cafe on March 1, 2024. He allegedly introduced the module to an “online handler” suspected to be abroad.

“In 2018, Shoaib Ahmed Mirza had befriended and introduced accused Abdul Matheen Taha to an online handler suspected to be abroad. Mirza had further provided an e-mail ID for encrypted communication between the handler and Abdul Matheen Taha, who was arrested earlier on April 12 along with co-accused Mussavir Hussain Shazib, the alleged bomber at the cafe from Kolkata,” NIA said in a statement.

“Further investigations into the role of handler and larger conspiracy behind the blast is underway,” NIA said. 

The probe into the cases involved the Thirthahalli module, which was allegedly put together by Abdul Matheen Taha and Mussavir Hussain Shazib, absconding accused in the 2020 Al Hind module case. The probe always pointed towards a handler, “Colonel”, whose identity is not yet known.

There has been no clarity on whether this handler was abroad or within India. Investigators had been keen to ascertain the identity of “Colonel” and said this was key to uncovering the larger conspiracy behind the terror acts allegedly carried out by the module. 

NIA has now claimed that Shoaib Ahmed Mirza was the contact between Taha and the handler, which sources said was a major development towards efforts to unmask the handler. 

2012 case 

Shoaib Ahmed Mirza was convicted in a LeT conspiracy case registered in Bengaluru in 2012. A total of 13 accused were convicted in the case in 2016.

“The accused were involved in hatching a conspiracy and planning for target killings of prominent leaders of a particular section of society, journalists and police officers in the state of Karnataka and Maharashtra as part of a larger conspiracy to commit terrorist acts in various parts of India,” an NIA press note in 2016 had said. 

Shoaib Ahmed Mirza was the prime accused in the case and was sentenced to 5 years of rigorous imprisonment in 2016.

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