The NIA on Wednesday said it had arrested Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist Abdul Naeem Sheikh from Uttar Pradesh, who was sent in 10-day NIA custody by a Delhi court later in the day.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) claimed it had arrested Sheikh alias Nomi, 37, on Tuesday morning from Charbagh bus stand in Lucknow in a joint operation with the state police’s Anti-Terrorist Squad.
Top government sources, however, confirmed that Sheikh was arrested two weeks ago in a joint operation by various security agencies in tandem with the Uttar Pradesh police from Varanasi after he was tailed by Intelligence Bureau officials for a few months.
Officials said that Sheikh — whom the NIA presented in a Patiala House court on Wednesday — was wanted by security agencies in various cases, including the serial blasts in Mumbai trains in 2006.
Seven blasts had ripped through Mumbai’s suburban railway network at peak hours on July 11, 2006, leaving 180 dead and scores of others injured.
Sheikh is also an accused in the Aurangabad arms haul case and was arrested by the West Bengal police in 2007 while entering India from Bangladesh along with two Pakistanis and one Kashmiri.
The anti-terror agency said it had filed an FIR in connection with the case on Tuesday before conducting raids, in which it claimed to have seized some incriminating documents, including mobile phone and bank account details.
An NIA statement said that Sheikh, a resident of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, had been brought to Delhi for further questioning.
A number of videos and photographs of vital installations of Army camps and power projects in Jammu and Kashmir have allegedly been seized from Sheikh’s possession, which proved that he did reconnaissance of these places, the official said.
Other officials, in the know of the case, claimed that Sheikh had also recced Kasol in Himachal Pradesh as well as some nearby areas which are frequently visited by Israeli nationals and other foreign tourists.
The security agencies have dubbed Sheikh as ‘David Coleman Headley’ as he had been following in his footprints and did reconnaissance of the same areas.
Pakistani-American Headley is serving a prison sentence of 35 years in the US for his involvement in terror activities and the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks of 2008.
“Sheikh was arrested after the Mumbai train blasts and was under trial. In August 2014, he escaped while being taken from Dum Dum Central jail (Kolkata) to Mumbai to appear in court. He fled while the train was passing through forested area in Chhattisgarh,” an official said.
Thereafter, Sheikh established a new sleeper cell under instructions from his LeT handler Amjad, the official said.
“Sheikh then did a number of reconnaissance operations in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. He targeted high-profile tourist sites, including the Taj Mahal in Uttar Pradesh.”