KOCHI: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested the fourth accused in the Kalamassery bus burning case of 2005.
The arrested, Shafeeq 38, Palliyakathu House, Thavakkara, Kannur, had gone into hiding since the incident took place. He was deported from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as a lookout notice was pending against him. The NIA recorded his arrest on his arrival at the New Delhi airport on Thursday. Later, he was produced before a court in New Delhi and a transit warrant was obtained. He was flown down to Kochi on Thursday night. Shafeeq was produced before the NIA Court here on Friday afternoon with his face covered as the identification parade was not completed.
At the court, the NIA requested the accused must be remanded to the Ernakulam Sub-Jail as the co-accused in the case have been lodged in the Ernakulam District Jail. Shafeeq submitted he was behind bars in Riyadh for past eight months. "For the same case, I was lodged in a jail in Riyadh before being deported," he said. However, he denied any physical torture by the NIA when Judge Kauser Edappagath enquired about it. He has been remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. The NIA will seek his custody next week.
There are 14 accused in the case, including Sufia Madani, wife of Abdul Nazar Madani. Thadiyantavida Nazeer, who claims to be the commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba in South India, is the first accused.
The incident pertaining to the case took place on September 9, 2005, when a Tamil Nadu Transport Corporation bus was burnt in retaliation to the long detention of PDP leader Abdul Nazar Madani in connection with the Coimbatore blast case. The bus from Ernakulam to Salem with 31 passengers was diverted from its route and set ablaze at Popemala near HMT colony, Kalamassery, after forcing all passengers to alight from the bus.
As per the plan, six persons, including Nazeer, Ummar Haji, Abdul Haleem, Ismail, Shafeeq, Sabir Buhari and Mohammad Navaz boarded the bus from the Ernakulam bus station. Thajuddin, Nazar and K A Anoop waited with three motorcycles at Kalamassery. The bus started from Ernakulam bus station at 8.30 pm. When the bus reached near the Kalamassery Municipal Office, one of the group members threatened the bus driver at gunpoint and asked him to drive the vehicle towards Popemala neat HMT Colony, an isolated area.
As the bus reached Popemala, the accused persons asked the passengers to get down from the bus. Using cotton waste soaked in petrol, the accused burnt the bus and escaped on their motorbikes.
Mohammed Sabir, the 14th accused, is the only person absconding in the case now. The chargesheet in the case was filed in 2010. One of the accused, Abdul Rahim, was killed in an encounter in Kashmir after allegedly joining a terrorist camp to fight against the nation. As many as five accused are still in judicial custody, while six, including Sufia Madani, were granted bail in the case.