Lucknow encounter: Home Minister Rajnath Singh praises Saifullah's father for refusing to accept son's body
An alleged terrorist, suspected to have been influenced by the IS, was killed early on Wednesday after a 12-hour police operation in the wake of the Ujjain-Bhopal train blast.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said the government and the Lok Sabha sympathises with Mohammad Sartaj, the father of a slain terror suspect, who refused to accept the body of his "traitor" son. Rajnath Singh while addressing Lok Sabha lauded Saifullah's father for his refusal to accept his son's body.
"A traitor cannot be my son, straight and simple," Sartaj had said on Wednesday about Saifullah, who is suspected to have been influenced by the Islamic State. Saifullah was killed early on Wednesday after a 12-hour police operation in the wake of the Ujjain-Bhopal train blast.
Saifullah's body was found with weapons lying next to him when the doors of the house where he was holed up since Tuesday afternoon were opened at the end of the operation, ADGP (Law and Order) Daljit Chaudhary said during a press conference.
The police statement came hours after its Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) killed Saifullah, a resident of Manohar Nagar in Kanpur, in Thakurganj's Haji colony in Lucknow.
After police raided the hideout on Tuesday evening, the terror suspect opened fire on the police and refused to surrender despite repeated warnings. Police officials said they tried to neutralise the IS operative and catch him alive but that was not to be.
A National Investigative Agency (NIA) team arrived earlier on Wednesday to take the probe forward. The NIA will look into the items recovered from slain Saifullah's hideout, where he was killed by the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad.
India's leaders, however, claimed that the IS group does not have influence in the country. There have been reports of Indians going to fight for the group in Iraq and Syria, but the numbers are low relative to the size of the population.
'Saifullah and his five associates are self-radicalised,' claims ADGP Daljit Chaudhary
The Uttar Pradesh police on Wednesday said the youth killed in an anti-terror operation on Wednesday morning and his five arrested associates were "self radicalised" and were trying to build an Islamic State Khorasan module in Lucknow.
The encounter came as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh police teams carried out arrests of several "self-radicalised" suspects with links to the train blast in Shajapur in MP on Tuesday in which 10 people were injured.
Closed-circuit television footage from near the train explosion site in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh state helped police identify the suspects.
Among the suspects held are Kanpur residents Mohammed Faisal Khan, Mohammed Imran alias 'Bhai Jaan' and Danish, who are believed to be brothers, according to police officials.
Police have also arrested Fakr-e-Alam alias Rishu from Etawah and Atiq Muzaffar, a resident of Kanpur, who allegedly was leading the group. Another person identified as Shailendra has also been held from Auraiya, officials said.
"These people were self-radicalised and self-proclaimed believers of ISIS ideology. They had no financing from any foreign source. They were using their own properties and other sources to fund their activities," he said.
Speaking about the encounter in Lucknow, Chaudhary said that eight pistols, ammunition, bomb-making equipment, timers, wires and other material were found in addition to gold and cash after the ATS operation ended.
"They (suspects) tried several times to carry out small-scale terror activities,... low-intensity bombs but were not successful," Chaudhary claimed.
The ADGP also said that two laptops which have been recovered from Lucknow and Kanpur have made it clear that the suspects were self-radicalised and influenced by IS literature available on social media. "They also browsed the internet to learn how to make bombs," Chaudhary said.
"We found three passports. Four persons were living in the rented house for a few months. They would meet and frequently do recce. We also found compass, batteries, six mobile phones, 45 gram of gold, foreign currency and literature in Urdu and English," he claimed.
Chaudhary also said that three passports, recovered from the flat where Saifullah was killed, were issued by the Lucknow regional passport office.
Saifullah's father refused to accept the body
Saifullah's father, who was killed in an anti-terror operation in Lucknow early on Wednesday, has refused to take the body of a "traitor".
Feeling ashamed of his son's activities, Sartaj refused to take Saifullah's body, saying, "A traitor cannot be related to me, let alone be my son."
He said he would have handed over his son to the police if he had even "an iota of inkling" about his activities. "My child has done a wrong thing and I have regrets for it... I would have handed him over to the police had I even an iota of inkling about it... The entire world would have seen and noticed how a father could put his own son in police hands," said Sartaj .
"There is no need to hide a disease, else it becomes an incurable wound," Sartaj told PTI. "We are Indian citizens. I was born here, my ancestors were born here," he said, adding, "Almost everyone in the family is sad. But it is more shame than sadness for what he has done." He said even his neighbours are wondering as to how this could have happened to a son belonging to a decent family.
On his decision not to take the body, he said he was not concerned about what relatives would say.
Sartaj said that his son had left home around two and a half months back after being scolded for not working. He said he had hit his son a day before he left home. Saifullah had contacted his family on Monday last week and told them he was going to Saudi Arabia for a job.
"I used to tell him to find some employment, but he would not listen to me. I used to be angry with him, scolded him many times. Around two and a half months back, I slapped him for this. Next day I went to work, when I came back I got to know he has left," he said.
Asked if Saifullah had contacted his family after leaving home, Sartaj said: "He called on last Monday, and said he has got a visa to go to Saudi. I said it is your wish," he added.
His elder brother Khalid said that Saifullah had told the family that he was going to Mumbai to get a visa for Saudi Arabia, where he wanted to go and get some experience in the leather industry.
He had taken the Aadhaar card, passport and other papers before leaving three months back, the elder brother said, adding that he did not answer calls, thereafter, and his mobile phone was usually switched off. He had studied accounts and was a deeply religious youth who offered namaaz five times every day.
Saifullah had rented a room in a five-room house in Haji colony in Thakurganj area of the state capital. He was living there for the past three months along with two other friends, who are now at large, police told IANS.
The four-year-old house belongs to some Badshah Khan and is looked after by caretaker Abdul Qayyum who lived in the same house with his family. Qayyum, a Madarsa teacher, had fixed the rent at Rs 3,000 after approval from the landlord, the caretaker told the police.
Meanwhile, the father of two other men, who have been arrested on terror-related charges, has claimed that they were innocent and has sought a fair probe.
The police said more arrests are likely. "We have information about the suspects on the run and we will soon catch them," Chaudhary said. He said some of the suspects were students and two of them had a small business.
"While we have made three arrests, others are in our custody. We will book them according to their involvement," he said.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan reacts to the incident
The police official's statement that the men were not linked to the Islamic State comes as Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, speaking in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, said that those who had orchestrated the train blast arrived from Lucknow and planted the bomb in the passenger train as part of a "pre-planned conspiracy".
"The terrorists were influenced by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror ideology and carried out the blast. It was a pre-planned conspiracy," Chouhan said in the Assembly during the ongoing budget session.
Chouhan also revealed that the explosion was caused by a pipe bomb, whose pictures were sent to Syria through their mobile phones. A timer was also used in the bomb.
"The terrorists planted pipe bombs in the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train and have links to the IS and we have proof. The explosives discovered have IS markings," he said.
NIA to probe MP train blast, Lucknow encounter cases: Rajnath Singh
Making a statement in the Lok Sabha on the blast in a Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train and subsequent anti-terror operations in Lucknow, Rajnath Singh also said that the anti-terror operations had helped "successfully avert" a possible threat to national security and that further probe would be handed over to the NIA.
So far, six arrests have been made related to the train blast, the minister informed Lok Sabha.
"When the Uttar Pradesh police met his father to hand over the body, Sartaj said one who could not be faithful to his country, was no one for him," Singh said in the House.
"He said I have worked hard all my life for my family, but this boy has shamed me. I sympathise with the father of Saifullah, I am sure the whole House sympathises with him," the Minister said.
"He (Sartaj) had to lose a son. The government is proud of such people, the whole House is proud of such people," the minister said, as members from both treasury and Opposition benches joined him by thumping their desks.
Giving details of the train blast and the anti-terror operations, the Home Minister said it was an example of good coordination between state police forces and central agencies.
"The events present an excellent example of coordination among the state police and central agencies. Due to the prompt action taken by the police of both the states, a possible threat to national security was successfully averted. Further investigations will be handed over to NIA," Singh said.
With inputs from agencies
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