Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad Deputy Inspector General Rajiv Krishna was strongly of the view that Lashkar-e-Tayiba activist Fahim Ansari, who was nabbed by the state Special Task Force in February in connection with the attack on a Central Reserve Police Force camp in Rampur town, about 300 km from the state capital Lucknow, was no ordinary criminal.
"Even though we found nothing substantive about his involvement in the Rampur attack, the confession about his close nexus with the Lashkar and recovery of some hand-sketched maps highlighting several Mumbai landmarks, that were targetted in the recent Mumbai attacks, was surely incriminating," Krishna told Sharat Pradhan in an exclusive interview in Lucknow.
How did you lay your hands on Fahim Ansari?
During the investigation into the fidayeen attack on the CRPF camp in Rampur his name cropped up. We got him from Rampur on February 10.
How deeply was he involved in the CRPF camp attack?
He seemed to have no direct involvement in that attack. But everything about him was suspicious. He was not only found in the company of the three other Lashkar activists who were directly involved in the CRPF attack, but he also confessed having attended two full-fledged Lashkar combat training camps in Pakistan. However, even more incriminating was the recovery of hand-sketched maps highlighting the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Mumbai police headquarters, the Taj Hotel and the Bombay Stock Exchange building among a few others.
Is he an Indian or a Pakistani?
He is an Indian -- a resident of the Goregaon suburb in Mumbai. But even there he acquired a fake identity in the name of Sahil Pawaskar and got admission to a computer training institute. Later, he even hired a room in that name. Surely, his intentions were suspect, otherwise why would he use a false identity?
How did he come in contact with the Lashkar?
He got into contact with a Lashkar agent in Dubai, where he had gone for employment. The agent took him to Pakistan for a 21-day induction programme called 'Daura-aam'. Later he graduated with a three-month intensive weaponry and explosives training programme titled 'Daura- khaas'.
Were these details provided to you by the Mumbai police?
No, we gathered all this during the course of our investigations. The STF, entrusted with this case, sent its team to Mumbai to probe into Ansari's antecedents. Everything was well corroborated with the confessions he made before us.
Was Ansari taken to Mumbai after his arrest?
Yes, of course. That is how we put all the pieces together.
Then, why did you not hand over the man to the Mumbai police?
Well, that involves legal formalities which need to be initiated by the Mumbai police. We could not have just handed him over.
What did he have to say about the Mumbai maps that he was carrying?
He said he was doing some recce (reconnaisance) of the area, but refused to go into any further details. Sure enough, there was no question of him disclosing his main objective. At that point of time, no one could have dreamt of a terror attack that was eventually unleashed on Mumbai on November 26. It was only after what happened that we started looking back into his files. And today, we have reason to believe that those maps had deeper meaning that anyone could have then imagined.
How is it that the UP cops read so much more into Ansari's antecedents than the Mumbai police?
We only did our job. I would not like to offer any comments about the Mumbai police.
What are the charges you have made out against him?
He has been charged under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code for cheating, under Section 25 of the Arms Act for carrying illegal weapons, besides for forgery and waging war against the nation under Section 121 of the IPC.
Do the Mumbai police want Ansari's custody now?
Yes, a team has already arrived in UP to seek transit remand for two of the six Lashkar men arrested in connection with the CRPF camp attack. Fahim Ansari, currently lodged in Bareilly jail, is one of them. The other is Sabauddin imprisoned in Lucknow district jail.