A blast was reported in a Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train, numbered 59320, on Tuesday morning. At least ten persons were injured, two of them seriously. The two seriously-injured people were referred to a hospital in Bhopal.The others were undergoing treatment at a hospital in Kalapipal town, which is close to the accident site -located around 81 km from the Madhya Pradesh capital.
Madhya Pradesh’s IG Law and order Makrand Devaskar confirmed that the passenger train explosion was a terrorist attack. Devaskar said that it was an IED blast and the police has arrested three persons from Pipariya.
The blast took place in the train’s second-last coach, which was an ordinary second-class coach, Indian Railways PRO Anil Saxena said. The incident occurred at arout 9:50 AM near Jabdi station, close to Kalapipal town in Shajapur district. The train was stopped as soon as the blast was reported.
Two coaches were damaged, and were separated from the train which later left for its onward journey, said PRO Jitendra Kumar Jayant. The glass panes of the windows in the general coach were shattered.
Following the blast, the train came to a halt. Smoke engulfed the general coach, causing panic among the passengers who rushed out to save themselves.
PRO Saxena said the ambulance reached the site of the blast within ten minutes.
Early on Tuesday evening, Uttar Pradesh Police carried out raids, arresting two men in Kanpur and one from Eatawah. A third raid targeted a home in Thakuganj, Lucknow. At around 4 PM, the UP police said in a since-deleted tweet that a suspected militant – identified as Mohammed Saiful -was involved in a standoff with the state’s Anti-Terrorism Squad.
The encounter ended at around 3 AM on Wednesday. ATS IG Asim Arun confirmed that Saiful was killed. Saiful is believed to be part of a larger ISIS-inspired module that is suspected to be behind the Tuesday morning train blast.
A group of five ISIS sympathisers, who were arrested from various parts of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, was preparing to launch a massive terror attack on a Sufi shrine in the state’s Barabanki area within the span of a month, reports said.
According to a report, the men also carried out an explosion on an Ujjain bound train yesterday as a ‘practice’ for the attack on the Sufi shrine. Following the blast, three suspects were arrested from Madhya Pradesh after they were captured in CCTV footage, and were questioned. During the interrogation, the men revealed that they were part of a terror module consisting nine men, all from Lucknow and Kanpur, and had pledged their allegiance to ISIS.
The leader of the gang Atif Muzzaffar was among those arrested. Further questioning revealed that the module had rented a home in Thakurganj area near Lucknow. Based on the tip-off, the Anti-Terror Squad arrested two more men from Kanpur and trapped another militant Saifullah, at the Thakurganj residence. The group had reportedly rented the residence six months ago from a man called Badshah, working in Saudi Arabia.
The report revealed that the police tried to negotiate with Saifullah for long, and even got his brother Khalid on the phone. The cops dialled Khalid and slid the phone under the door to Saifullah. When Khalid broke down and asked his brother to surrender, he was told, “I won’t, I want martyrdom.”
After a long stand-off of 12 hours, the ATS finally tried to breach the house by drilling holes into the wall. The ATS commandos then stormed inside the house (after issuing a warning to the terrorist). “The suspected terrorist then fired at the ATS commandos, which was then appropriately retaliated by the ATS commandos. After this, two rooms were thoroughly searched and checked, and the person identified as Saifullah was found dead,” IG ATS Aseem Arun said.
“Efforts were made to catch the suspected terrorist alive, but unfortunately this did not materialise. We fired tear gas shells and chilli bombs, so that he comes out. But, he did not come out,” said Aseem Arun, a senior officer of the antiterror squad was quoted as saying.
A cache of ammunitions including eight pistols, 650 rounds of ammunition, 50 fired rounds, explosives, gold, cash, passports, SIM cards and a train time table were found along with the body.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that four men named by Uttar Pradesh police in connection with the explosion on the BhopalUjjain passenger train on Tuesday morning had been under surveillance of intelligence services for attempting to set up an Islamic State-inspired jihadist cell, government sources have told The Indian Express. The surveillance had not, however, thrown up signs of an imminent attack, leading authorities to hold back arrests in the hope of gathering further evidence.
Sources said a sweep was ordered Tuesday after intelligence agencies picked up mobile phone chatter on the train explosion and the suspects.
Police identified the three men held in Kanpur as Mohammad Faisal Khan, Mohammad Imran and Fakhr-ul-Alam while a fourth, Saifurullah, was holed-up inside a Lucknow house where ATS personnel were trying to flush him out, and later eliminated.
The four men, police sources familiar with the surveillance claimed, had made contact with pro-Islamic State Facebook accounts, and downloaded jihadist material, ahead of the attack on the Bhopal-Ujjain train.
Though police would not say what role the men are believed to have had in the bombing, UP Additional DG (Law and Order) Daljit Chaudhary said “all suspects are related to the Ujjain train blast”.
“We were informed that a few suspects were lodged in Kanpur and Lucknow. Policemen and senior officers of the ATS went in search,” Chaudhary said. UP DGP Javeed Ahmad told The Indian Express that the operation was being carried out on the basis of inputs from central agencies about the involvement of extremists.
Intelligence inputs to UP police said the suspects could be part of an Islamic State module. “The situation is fluid at the moment. We have given whatever information we had to UP police and they are working on it. Concrete information on the antecedents and motive of the suspects will be clear only after they are thoroughly interrogated,” a source in a central intelligence agency said.
Teams of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) too have been sent to Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to question the suspects held there and inspect the IED remains found in the train coach. None of the four suspects in UP is thought to have either travelled to serve with or received training from Islamic State units in Syria or Afghanistan, government sources said.
Earlier this year, the NIA said it had arrested 52 individuals in Islamic State-inspired terrorism plots, with 12 cases being registered in 2016. Thirty-two of those arrested held diplomas, graduate degrees or higher qualifications.
“We will have a clearer picture of precisely what the relationship of these four were with Indian jihadists already with the Islamic State once investigators have the opportunity to trawl through their computers and mobile phones,” a police officer said.
In charges filed last summer, the NIA named Karnataka-born Indian Mujahideen fugitive Shafi Armar, now thought to be based in Syria’s Raqqa, as a key recruiter for the Islamic State. Names of other recruiters have also figured in subsequent NIA investigations.
The bomb used on the Bhopal-Ujjain train, sources said, was fabricated from sawn-off metal pipe, filled with gunpowder — a simple design that has the potential to inflict lethal casualties if built properly. However, the sources said, flaws in the design of the bomb meant the explosion only caused minor injuries to nine people.
Earlier plots, like a strike on a 2013 campaign rally held by Narendra Modi in Patna, and attacks by the al-Qaeda inspired Base Movement in Bangalore, Chennai and Pune last year, also used similar devices.