The auto rickshaw driver said he overheard three passengers discussing their plan in Malay and in a Punjabi dialect; cops have made sketches of two of the suspects
The Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) and Crime Branch officials are on the lookout for three individuals who may have come from Malaysia to carry out a terror attack in Mumbai. The cops have been on the hunt since Friday, when an auto driver approached them saying he had overheard three passengers plotting the attack in his vehicle.
The cops are on the hunt for the suspects and have prepared sketches of two of them, based on descriptions by the auto driver
Although there weren’t too many details about the threat, with the prime minister also visiting Mumbai yesterday, the entire police force had been put on alert, and the ATS, crime branch and local cops were asked to take maximum precautions in and around the areas PM Narendra Modi was likely to visit.
According to sources within the ATS, on Friday, 34-year-old Saurabh Paul (name changed) was driving near Sion flyover when the three suspects boarded his auto rickshaw with three large suitcases. After crossing Vikhroli flyover, they told Paul to take them towards Airoli toll naka.
“During their journey, the trio was constantly talking to a man over phone in the Malay language. Since Paul had worked in Malaysia for four years, he could easily understand what they were saying. Only one among them was unable to speak in Malay. The three of them also spoke a Punjabi dialect mixed with Urdu,” said an ATS officer, adding that the cops suspected the trio might hail from a region near the border with Pakistan.
According to sources, Paul had told the police that he understood both languages as he had not only worked in Malaysia, but had also lived in Punjab for a while. While he was there, he had a few roommates who spoke the same dialect and they hailed from a village close to the border with Pakistan. He claimed they discussed the operation and were on the phone with another person, persuading him to continue with the plan.
“He (Paul) told us his suspicion turned into conviction when he heard one of them say ‘Kaam hone ke baad family ko bhi sambhal lenge. Kuch nahi hoga, aaka hai. Qasab ke family ko bhi sambhaal rahe hai na’ (After the work is done we will take care of your family. Don’t worry, Aaka is there. We have been taking care of Qasab’s family as well),” the officer added.
Paul dropped his passengers near Airoli toll naka, and discussed their conversation with his friends, after which he decided to approach the Mulund police the same night.Sources said that since he was able to provide such detailed information about the three passengers and their conversation, the Mulund police took him seriously and informed their seniors, following which the ATS and Crime branch were also called.
“We have made sketches of two of the accused and the search operation has begun in the slum pockets of Mumbai, rural areas in Thane, Thane district and Mumbai city. We have shown the sketches to people in lodges, restaurants and hotels in rural and city areas. Informers have been asked to work round the clock and look for the suspects. Several teams have been made to nab them,” said an ATS officer.
Despite repeated attempted Additional Commissioner of Police (ATS) Nikhet Kaushik remained unavailable for comment. However, top-level sources in the department confirmed the development.
‘Why are they questioning him so much?’
When mid-day visited the auto driver’s residence in Mulund, he was not there. His wife said he had been taken away for questioning. “Since the time he went to the police, he has not been able to get back to work.
They keep taking him to the ATS office for questioning. Why are they questioning him so much? They even showed me the sketches and asked me whether I knew the suspects. I was in the hospital last week and my husband didn’t tell me anything as he was worried about my health,” his wife said.