With Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) not making headlines for some time, citizens may have wondered whether the elite outfit was on a sabbatical. In reality, amidst scarce terror intelligence the specialised unit has been shadowing less eye-catching offenders like robbers and hoax callers.
On Thursday, ATS in Mumbai arrested three people for allegedly robbing two employees of a bullion firm and fleeing with Rs 45 lakh in cash. Earlier this month, ATS officials were put on the trail of a person who had called up the railway control room to inform about ‘terrorists’ commuting in a local train. Though ATS managed to trace the suspects, the call turned out to be a hoax.
Officers Dinesh Kadam and Ninad Sawant of Maharashtra ATS arrested Mohammad Qurban Raja Shaikh, Mrituanjay Das, and Sayyed Ali Abdul Kadir who were involved in the robbery that took place at Meghdoot flyover on Marine Drive.
Justifying the arrests of robbers by the specialised team, Maharashtra ATS chief Rakesh Maria said, “We had information that they were carrying weapons. On intercepting them we found that they were in possession of a 9 mm pistol, two revolvers, an 8 mm handgun and a toy gun.”
While ATS has been busy cracking cases of hoax calls and robberies, Delhi police has been blazing along by working out the German Bakery blast, Pune Junglee Maharaj blasts, and making the arrest of Abu Jundal — wanted in the 26/11 cases.
Delhi police’s Special Squad succeeded in tracing the conspirators of the Pune serial blasts with the arrest of four IM operatives Asad Khan, Imran Khan, Feroze Hamza and Irfan Mustafa Langda. With not much to do, ATS has sought the custody of the accused so they can be interrogated further.
“Since the time of the blasts almost the entire ATS team, including Rakesh Maria, had been sitting in Pune. We all struggled day and night to get a breakthrough in the case,” said a senior ATS officer on condition of anonymity.
The Pune blasts issue is not an aberration. In the past, Delhi police’s Special Squad has superseded Maharashtra ATS in several other terror-related cases registered in the state. Similarly, ATS also took custody of Indian Mujahideen commander Qateel Siddiqui — named in 2010 Pune bombings, 2010 Jama Masjid attack and 2005 Indian Institute of Science shooting, and arrested in November last year by Delhi police.
Delhi police’s Special Squad added another feather to its cap when it apprehended key 26/11-coordinator Abu Jundal alias Sayed Zabiuddin Sayed Zakiuddin Ansari. Jundal — also an accused in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case — allegedly supervised the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, sitting in a Karachi control room. He was deported by Saudi Arabia and was brought to India on June 21. He was travelling on a Pakistani passport issued in the name of Riyasat Ali. Maharashtra ATS later took his custody.
An ATS officer said, “Delhi police’s Special Squad has an advantage, since it has access to intelligence of central agencies. Most of the time, IB officers prefer to pass on information to the Special Squad rather than Mumbai ATS.”