NIA raids locations in Delhi for Kerala train arson attack links

11 May, 2023 | Anupam Shrivastav

train arson National

Move comes after NIA begun investigating inter-state links as well as role of handlers in the train arson attack which killed 3 passengers including a child.

India’s premier security agency NIA conducted searches in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh on Thursday for links with the Elathur train arson attack that took place on 2 April.

The agency investigators carried out search operations since this morning and the raids continue to be ongoing at the locations of suspects. The NIA searched suspects’ hideouts in the case, which was handed over to the anti-terror agency about a month ago, and began its investigation by prosecuting the “highly radicalized” apprehended culprit Shahrukh Safi.

Following an order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Counter Terrorism and Counter Radicalization (CTCR) division, the agency took over the train arson case from Kerala Police in mid-April.

As it was a clear case of terrorism involving multiple states, the NIA invoked the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act based on suspicions that the accused was dispatched to the state by his handlers and received enough local assistance.

The NIA’s action comes just days after a district session court in Kozhikode charged the perpetrator identified as Shahrukh Saifi, who reportedly received burn injuries during the terror act, with murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. In a complaint filed by the railway police, he was charged with murder.

According to officials, there was a preplanned conspiracy behind the train arson attack, and it was not a one-man job, as the accused admitted. Shahrukh Saifi, a 27-year-old male from Shaheen Bagh, was arrested by Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) for the train arson attack on a train in which the accused also sustained injuries.

During the interrogation by Special Investigating Team (SIT), Shahrukh provided conflicting statements wherein he initially said that he was just following directions and later refused by taking the sole responsibility for the attack.

The accused was termed ‘highly radicalized” by the Kerala police and was heavily influenced by Islamic evangelist Zakir Naik and his provocative speeches. The NIA is now investigating a larger conspiracy behind the motive of the preplanned train arson attack.

NIA investigating larger role of handlers, aids in train arson attack

The NIA is investigating the larger conspiracy as part of which Saifi, assessed by Kerala police to be “highly radicalized” and influenced by inflammatory speeches of Islamic evangelist Zakir Naik, planned and executed the act of arson.

It is also examined if Shahrukh Saifi was in touch with the handlers and other aids that may well have been a part of the conspiracy. NIA is also cross-checking the inter-state links, as Saifi was a resident of Shaheen Bagh in Delhi while he was arrested by ATS from Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.

Right from the start of the investigation, NIA has been coordinating with officers from its Kochi branch in Kerala. Samples from the incident site were also collected by NIA for forensic analysis. This happened soon after the blast took place to investigate the reason behind the fire.

Saifi, on 2 April had poured inflammatory liquid on the unsuspecting passengers onboard Kannur Executive Express in an attempt to set them on fire at Elathur, Kerala. The three passengers died as they tried to escape fire by jumping out of the train. Saifi was later nabbed in Ratnagiri.

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