Over a month after embarrassing the Mumbai police force, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) rearrested fugitive Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Afzal Mutalik Usmani on Sunday morning. Usmani had fled from the Sessions Court on September 20, when he was brought to court for a hearing.
The police said that he was aided by his nephew Javed Noor ul Hasan in escaping from Mumbai. Usmani had shaved off his heavy beard and moustache and was in the process of changing his identity with the help of fake documents. He had already applied for a driving licence in the name of Wasim Sattar Khan, and was planning to cross the border into Nepal when he was nabbed.
Usmani (38), who hails from Sangarpur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh district, was a hotelier in Mumbai and was arrested by the ATS in 2008 for allegedly stealing cars that were later used in serial blasts in Ahmedabad, Surat and Jaipur.
He managed to slip out of custody by foxing the police escort team from the Sessions court on September 20. A case was registered in the Colaba police station and a thorough search was started for Usmani. The Colaba police, the Mumbai crime branch and the Maharashtra ATS team were working together to hunt for Usmani.
The police had learnt that after fleeing from the court, Usmani had borrowed Rs 600 from a tea vendor in Sewri. The tea vendor was called in for questioning and the cops began checking on all the close relatives of Usmani.
“We had learnt that 19-year-old Javed Noor ul Hasan Khan, who is the nephew of Usmani, was missing from his residence in Dharavi since the time Usmani fled,” said Rakesh Maria, chief of Maharashtra ATS.
A team comprising ACP Mangesh Pote and police inspector Dinesh Kadam was working on the case. Kadam had arrested Usmani in 2008 and was well aware of most of his hideouts.
“Our team learnt that Usmani’s nephew Javed was returning to collect some documents that he had left back at his house in Dharavi. Accordingly we managed to intercept Javed at Kurla on October 25,” said Maria.
During interrogation, the police learnt that Usmani was hiding at his niece’s house in a village named Tatera in Bahraich district in Uttar Pradesh.
Usmani had sought refuge in his niece’s village by telling the relatives that he had returned after a long stay in Saudi Arabia, and that he would return after a short vacation. “Usmani had told the villagers in Tatera that he had returned from Saudi Arabia and was going to stay in the village for some time and then return to Saudi. When Javed did not return from Mumbai, Usmani got suspicious and decided to flee. He went to Rupadia station, which is on the Indo-Nepal border, and was about to flee when he was nabbed,” said Maria. The ATS picked up Usmani on October 27 around 3.30 am with the help of UP police and has also arrested Javed who helped Usmani flee. The police have got the custody of both the accused till November 6 and more relatives of Usmani who helped him hide may be arrested, said the ATS.