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New Encounter in an Old Bottle

New Encounter in an Old Bottle


Noida police and UP ATS kill terrorists in an encounter, but NEHA DIXIT finds discrepancies

THEY COULD only have been teenagers. Who else would mount an assault on the national capital without knowing the way there? Or flaunt an AK-47 while asking for directions at a tea stall? Or display extraordinary bravado by not returning fire even when the police was chasing them to death? Or include such personal sundries as a passport and a diary in packing for the mission but neglect to bring a mobile? Or make dying declarations of their identities?

The names of the two young men the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and the state police shot dead in the January 25 Noida encounter have been given out as Abu Ismail and Farooq. Both are said to have been in their late teens. The police version of events charts a car chase that began at 2.15 am on Republic Day as the two zoomed through Lalkuan in Ghaziabad in a stolen Maruti 800. They were gunned down half an hour later in Noida’s Sector 97, 25 km away. A Pakistani passport, two AK-47 rifles, 120 cartridges, five Chinese hand grenades, three detonators, 1.5 kg RDX, a rucksack and a diary are recorded as having been recovered from their car. Materials allegedly seized from the car indicate that the two were trained in making plastic explosives.

While the duo certainly netted the Indian security system some much-needed credit for a swift, post-26/11 response to a terror threat, some crucial questions remain.

How, for starters, was Abu Ismail and Farooq’s plot uncovered? “The ATS had been working for the last one-and-a-half months on specific information about jehadis trying to enter the capital via Ghaziabad on the eve of Republic Day,” Additional Director General of Police Brij Lal said. As soon as there was information about two persons trying to sneak into Delhi, the ATS took action. The Noida police fill in the details recounting how the ‘terrorists’ stopped to ask for directions at a tea stall from a man who, coincidentally, was a police informer. He saw a gun jutting out from one of the boys’ rucksacks, recognised it as an AK-47 rifle and informed the police.

The police are yet to name the terror outfit to which the two belonged. Key questions remain unanswered. Why would a terrorist try entering the capital on, of all days, Republic Day, when security is at its peak? Again, were these two really so reckless as to risk suspicion by letting their weapons show? Would the plotters of a terror strike really need directions to their target? If the police have the answers, they’re not letting on.

ESTABLISHING THE identity of the two dead ‘terrorists’ has also proved tricky. According to the police, Farooq ‘confessed’ on his way to the hospital that he and Ismail were Pakistanis. The police also say Farooq confessed he was from Akora in Baluchistan and Ismail hailed from Rawalkot. The passport recovered from the car identifies Farooq as Ali Ahmad, son of Mohammad Fateh of Rahim Yaar Khan, Pakistan. A dying ‘confession’ may raise scepticism, but even more questionable is Farooq’s setting out for a terror strike with his passport but without either a satellite or a mobile phone, used in practically every terror attack of the past few years.

Meanwhile, DIG (Meerut Range) Aditya Mishra has told the press that the terrorists were also carrying two ID cards issued in the names of Rakesh, supposedly of the College of Engineering and Technology in Parbhani, Maharashtra, and Sameer, purportedly from Shivam Old Senior Secondary School, Vijay Nagar, Delhi. Which version is the truth?

JULY 29, 2002
Three ULFA militants gunned down in Assam’s Nalbari district; allegedly intended to disrupt activities on or before Independence Day
JANUARY 21, 2003
Nine suicide squads trained by Pakistan’s Special Service Group apprehended. Targets: Republic Day venues, ministers, religious places
JANUARY 13, 2004
Ahmedabad Crime Branch kills Sadique Jamal Mehtar, who is alleged to have plotted to kill Gujarat CM |Narendra Modi, then deputy PM LK Advani and VHP leader Pravin Togadia
AUGUST 11,2004
Three Lashker-e-Toiba militants killed as army foils infiltration bid along Line of Control. Target: Independence Day celebrations in Srinagar
AUGUST 08, 2006
Three Jaish-e-Mohammad militants killed in Doda, near Jammu; allegedly plotted a landmine attack ahead of Independence Day
JANUARY 18, 2007
Delhi police arrest two Harkat-ul- Jehad-i-Islami militants, foil pre-Republic Day blasts bid
AUGUST 12, 2008
Assam police arrest ULFA militant Noni Haglari, who confesses to being trained in Bangladesh to carry out attacks in run-up to August 15
JANUARY 3,2009
UP police arrest informer-turned- Naxalite Ram Vichar Chero, allegedly planned to target a police party on Republic Day by blowing up a culvert

Conflicting reports over the route the chase took have also emerged. The ATS claims the terrorists were chased from the Amity University check post, six km from Sector 97 in Noida, where they were shot down. Sector 97 is also the site of two other recent encounters. The Noida police, on the other hand, report a 25-km chase from Lal Kuan in Ghaziabad that would have crossed at least five police posts. Why did the police at these posts not check the fleeing terrorists?

Ismail and Farooq flaunt an AK-47 while asking for directions
They did not fire back even with the police chasing them
They carry their passport and a diary for the mission which the police recovered later
They neglect to bring either satellite or mobile phone
Farooq makes a dying declaration that he and Ismail were Pakistanis
The chase would have crossed five police posts. No-one stopped the fleeing men

The police say the car the duo used had a fake registration number, of a two-wheeler scooter, registered in the name of a Ghaziabad-resident Pawan Verma. Other reports, however, said a couple of number plates were also seen in the police Gypsy immediately after the encounter. The Gypsy has since gone missing and the police and the ATS refuse to talk about it.

The Gypsy would, perhaps, have raised some of the greatest contradictions of all. The police explain away the lack of bullet marks on the terrorists’ Maruti 800 with the claim that they targeted only the lower parts of the car to puncture its tyres. But there is only one bullet hole on the windshield of the police vehicle. Even though an AK-47 fires at least eight or nine bullets at one go. The windshield mark is also unusual for an AK-47 bullet, which would normally have broken the pane.

The holes in the Noida police and UP ATS’S versions of events are compounded by the refusal of both agencies to confirm details they initially gave out. “They may be terrorists. But details will be given after the investigation,” says HN Singh, Western UP head, ATS. A four-member team headed by Lucknow DSP RK Singh is now to investigate the case. Singh says, “ We are carefully examining the details and file the charge sheet soon.” Till such time as the findings are filed, the story of the ‘terrorists’ will have to rest as the less-than-convincing tale of the failed expedition of two reckless boys.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 6, Dated Feb 14, 2009
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