Wednesday, December 27, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Ultra behind Red Fort attack shot
From R. Suryamurthy and Syed Ali Ahmed
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 26 — The sensational Red Fort attack case had a dramatic end today with the killing of a Lashkar-e-Toiba militant and the arrest of two others, including a woman, in an early morning encounter in a congested South Delhi residential colony near the historic Jamia Milia Islamia.

“Pakistani national Abu Shamal, who was a member of the Lashkar militant outfit and took part in Friday’s Red Fort attack, was killed in the encounter. Another, Pakistani national, Ashfaq Ahmed, and his wife Rehmana have been arrested,” Mr R.K. Sharma, acting Commissioner of Delhi Police, said here.

Four other militants involved in the attack are absconding and they could have slipped out of the Capital.

“Police teams have been sent to other states to nab them,” Mr Sharma said.

The encounter began at around 5 a.m. with sleuths of the Special Cell armed with automatic weapons who engaged the militants who were armed to their teeth.

The militants have been identified as Abu Shamal (killed in the encounter), Abu Sadd, Abu Sakhar, Billal, Haider and Ashfaq Ahmed, all Pakistanis.

The firing from both the sides continued for about half an hour and the gunshot sounds subdued the chirping of birds and the daily early morning sounds of nature.

Awakened by the sound of gunfire, many residents tried to peep out but the firing was so intense that many took safe cover within their premises.

The six militants of the dreaded Lashkar-e-Toiba group, which has carried out suicide attacks on Army establishments in the Kashmir valley, Mr Sharma said, were involved in the Friday night incident.

The police, which had carried out searches in and around the Red Fort for the past four days, today seized an assault rifle AK-56, two hand grenades, live cartridges and a knife from the marshy area behind the 17th century fort.

“We made this seized based on the interrogation of Ashfaq Ahmed,” the acting Commissioner said. He was, however, at a loss of words when asked why the police had not laid their hands on these weapons when they had virtually sealed the area and had searched each and every bush.

With this, the police has so far seized three AK-56 rifles, six hand grenades, eight magazines, one pistol and several live cartridges.

Mr Sharma said the Red Fort attack was well-planned by the militants and they had carried out a recce before the final assault on the fort built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.

The militants had been instructed to carry out an attack which would bring into limelight the Kashmir issue.

The Lashkar-e-Toiba had rejected the unilateral ceasefire announced by the Prime Minister on November 28. Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee had extended the ceasefire till January 26, Republic Day, and the militants carried out the attack at Red Fort, first such attack on an Army establishment in the Capital.

The meticulous planning and well-entrenched roots of the militant outfit can be grasped from the fact that Ashfaq Ahmed, who had sneaked into the country through the Kupwara sector in Kashmir early this year, was instructed by his commanders to have a safe house in Delhi to carry out the attack in the Capital.

Giving details, Mr Sharma said Ashfaq Ahmed, suspected to be a Pakistani national living clandestinely, married an Indian woman in a trans-Yamuna colony, Ghazipur. He was shadowed and then apprehended from the house of his in-laws in the Ghazipur area on the intervening night of December 25 and 26.

His sustained interrogation revealed the conspiracy behind the Red Fort attack, in which two Rajputana Rifles men and a civilian were killed.

Ahmed, an experienced Lashkar militant, was sent to Delhi at the instance of the ISI in May 2000 to set up a safe and camouflaged base in a suitable area in Delhi for carrying out subversive acitivities, he said.

He accordingly set up a computer centre known as “Knowledge Plus” in Gafoor Market, Okhla in South Delhi. He had substantial money for this purpose, the acting Commissioner said, adding that according to Ahmed he would have spent more than Rs 6 lakh in setting up the computer centre and had his bank balance to the tune of over Rs 5 lakhs.

His wife also has bank accounts with more than Rs 2.8 lakh. His wife had full knowledge of the acitivities of Ahmed and was in league with him, Mr Sharma said, adding that at the time of his arrest Ahmed was in possession of a pistol, some cartridges and other relevant documents.

Further interrogation of Ashfaq revealed after he settled down in Delhi he planned for a terrorist attack in consultation with his handlers located in Pakistan. He and other five militants had rented accommodation in Batla House to serve as a hideout for the visiting militants.

He had also arranged for transport and communication facilities for the visiting terrorists for this operation, Mr Sharma said.


Residents woke up to gunshots
From Our Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Dec 26 — Residents of the narrow bylanes of Batla House in the Jamia Nagar area of South Delhi woke up to the sounds of gunshots early this morning as a police team gunned down a Lashkar-e-Toiba militant, allegedly involved in the Red Fort attack case, in an encounter and arrested two others after hot pursuit.

When the firing begun on Muradi Road which divides new and old Batla House, many of the residents were having their meal for Tuesday Ramzan while a few others were preparing to go to the mosque for morning prayer.

The shell-shocked residents bolted their doors, closed their windows in haste and stopped their wards from going to the mosque for prayers. Most people preferred a closed-door prayer, fearing a gangwar in their colony.

Mr Inbesat Ahmed Alvi, who works with All India Radio said, “Firing began at 5 a.m. when I was to leave for my office. When I heard gunshots I peeped through the door and saw a large number of police personnel near my house. Thereafter, I could not dare to go to office and phoned to make alternate arrangements for the day”.

Samina, a school teacher, telephoned her relatives in another bylane, asking them not to venture out. Several rounds were fired from both sides, she said.

Khurshid Ahmed, a student, apparently shocked by the incident, said, “I was about to step out of my one-room tenement to go to the nearby mosque for morning prayers when I heard the gunshots and saw a large number of policemen running around in the street. I did not dare to go out and instead locked myself inside the room and did my prayers at home.”

“Though sometimes I have seen policemen making rounds in the area or looking for some petty criminal but today’s encounter was really a shocking incident for me,” Irshad, who resides a few metres away from where the encounter took place, said.

It was 5 a.m. when the firing began in the ground floor flat of G-73 on Muradi Road in Batla House.

The firing ended after half an hour in which the militant suspected to be involved in attack on the Red Fort incident was killed. His wife Rehmana, sister-in-law, Farzana and his associate were arrested.

Curious residents gathered in large numbers at the scene once the guns fell silent and word about the police encounter spread like wild fire.

The police had cordoned the house where the firing occurred. People were not allowed to go there. Even people living on other floors of the building were not allowed to come down. Till 10 a.m. they were confined inside their flats.

The police had received a tip-off about the militants hideout last evening and deployed sleuths of the Special Cell there. When the sleuths narrowed down on the flat in which the militant was staying, they were greeted with gunshots from inside.

The police team immediately returned fire from their automatic weapons, killing him on the spot. Twentysix bullet marks could be seen on the inside walls of the room. Blood stains were also there in the room.

There were two briefcases, one bag, three quilts and three blankets in the room. One blue coloured briefcase was broken in which some papers, diaries and clothes had been kept.

The building is owned by Gyan Chand, a shopkeeper. The militant had approached the landlord with one of his friends and posed as a student of Jamia Milia Islamia which is a stone’s throw from the house.

The militant had started a computer institute “Knowledge Computer Centre,” near the house.



Security around PM’s residence beefed up
From R. Suryamurthy and S. Satyanarayanan 

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, Dec 26 — The security ring in and around the residence and office of the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, was further tightened today following a threat issued by the dreaded Lashkar-e-Toiba militant group, which was behind the Red Fort attack.

The militant outfit issued the threat today in the Kashmir valley.

According to Special Protection Group sources, the entire security arrangement of the Prime Minister’s week-long holiday visit to Kottayam in Kerala has been reviewed in the wake of the fresh threat. Mr Vajpayee has already reached Kerala.

Senior officials of the Intelligence Bureau and other agencies involved in the security-related matters also reviewed the security around vital installations in the national Capital.

The security around airports and railway stations across the country has also been strengthened following the threat by the militant group, which has expressed its opposition to the unilateral ceasefire announced by the Prime Minister.

Mr Vajpayee had extended the ceasefire till January 26 after which the Lashkar militants carried out an attack in Red Fort killing three persons, including two Army Jawans.

The shootout at the Red Fort on Friday was the first such incident on an Army establishment in the Capital. The suicide squads of Lashkar-e-Toiba militants in the past had carried out suicide attacks on Army camps in the Valley. Such suicide attacks by “fidayeen” comprising two or three members have resulted in heavy casualty to the security forces.

“The security ring of Prime Minister and other VIPs in the Capital has been suitably strengthened. The security cover at all important installations in Delhi has been further beefed up,” the Delhi Police Special Commissioner (Security and Operations), Mr R S Gupta, said today.

The Bureau of Civil Aviation of Security (BCAS) has sounded an alert at airports across the country and the security has been beefed up.

“Entry passes to airport have been restricted and one-time entry pass has been completely stopped. The airport authorities cannot issue any passes. Only the BCAS can do it,” an aviation security official said.

Sources said the National Security Guard had been put on high alert following intelligence reports that militants opposed to the ceasefire might carry out attack to hog the limelight.


Govt rules out withdrawal of ceasefire offer

NEW DELHI, Dec 26 (UNI) — The government today ruled out any possibility of withdrawal of the unconditional ceasefire offer in Jammu and Kashmir following the stepped up militant violence.

“There is no such proposal” to withdraw the ceasefire offer which has been extended till January 26, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said.

He said Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had already expressed concern over the violent activities of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen aimed at scuttling the peace process.

On the question of mediation by Saudi Arabia, the spokesman said Indian Government was totally against any third party role in the resolution of the Kashmir conflict.

He, however, evaded response to the attempts made by Saudi Arabia to moderate jehad in Kashmir. 

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