A day after the Uttar Pradesh police issued a press statement that those involved in the Ujjain train blast belonged to the Islamic State, they retracted it, claiming there was no evidence linking these individuals to the terror group.
The U.P. police said the accused were “self-proclaimed” members of the terrorist group, and “they fancied themselves as being members of the IS.”
“There is nothing to show that they were part of the IS. They were self-proclaimed sympathisers of the outfit; their affiliation to the outfit was one-sided,” Javeed Ahmed, U.P. DGP, told The Hindu on Wednesday.
It was the Telangana police who had been tracking the online activities of the nine Uttar Pradesh-based men; it was on the basis of specific information provided by them that the Madhya Pradesh and U.P. police could nab the accused within hours of their allegedly planting a “pressure pipe bomb” on a train in Bhopal.
None of the police officers in M.P or U.P. could say why the accused, who were all living in a rented house in Lucknow, travelled more than 600 km to Bhopal to plant a bomb in a passenger train. The explosion left nine persons injured.
Another police official said: “The accused were under watch and we were tracking them. We sounded an alert after we noticed that three of them had travelled to Bhopal all of a sudden. We believe that they sensed they were under watch as they were frequently changing their online identities. They were getting directions from more than one handler, who claimed to be abroad.”
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan claimed that Atif Muzaffar, a resident of Kanpur was the “mastermind of the attack” and the accused belonged to the Islamic State. “They clicked the photo of the bomb and sent it to their handler in Syria. One of them is a mechanic and they learnt the preparation of the bomb through Internet,” Mr. Chouhan told a news agency.
Muzaffar, who is alleged to have travelled to Bhopal along with two others, Danish Akhtar and Syed Meer Hussain, to plant the bomb on the train, had dropped out of an engineering course he was pursuing at the Aligarh Muslim University.
“He failed in a physics paper and was expelled from college following that, was not doing much since then,” said an M.P. police official.
Muzaffar and others were staying in a rented house in Lucknow for the past two months and told their landlord that they were students. They left their homes in Kanpur and Kannauj saying they were moving to Lucknow for better prospects.
U.P. ATS chief Asim Arun told The Hindu , “It’s a self-proclaimed IS module. They are self-radicalised but whether the IS announced that these men were working for them, we don’t have any such information.”
The Home Ministry said on Wednesday that it was upset with the way the U.P. police handled the operation. They should have refrained from giving live commentary on television channels, it said.
A senior Home Ministry official said the Ujjain train blast case and the Lucknow encounter would be transferred for probe to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). NIA teams visited Ujjain and Lucknow on Wednesday.
“The U.P. police jumped the gun in claiming that the accused belonged to IS,” said the official.