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NIA takes over Kerala train arson case, begins probe under UAPA

NIA investigators will now probe the Kerala train arson case

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has taken over the Kerala train fire tragedy case and started its probe charging the “highly radicalised” arrested accused Shahrukh Safi, sources said.

The move followed an order issued by the Counter Terrorism and Counter Radicalization (CTCR) division under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). As it was a clear case of terror involving many states, the NIA invoked the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act based on doubts that the accused was sent to the state by his handlers and he got enough local help, said the sources.

The anti-terror agency took over the case from Kerala Police, which has been probing the case under UAPA.

The NIA’s action comes days after the accused, identified as one Shahrukh Saifi, who also suffered burn injuries during the terror act, was slapped with murder charges on Friday under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code by a district session court in Kozhikode. He was charged with murder in a case filed by the railway police.

As per officials, there was a pre-planned conspiracy behind the crime and it was not a single-man mission as confessed by the accused.

Saifi, 27, a native of Shaheen Bagh in Delhi, was arrested by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra Police and Central Intelligence on Wednesday and was brought to Kozhikode earlier this month where he was receiving treatment for the injuries.

At the time of interrogation by a special investigation team (SIT) Saifi provided contradictory statements in which initially, he had said he was being used by someone and later retracted saying, everything was planned and executed by him only.

The NIA is learnt to investigate the larger conspiracy as part of which Saifi, assessed by Kerala police to be “highly radicalised” and influenced by inflammatory speeches of Islamic evangelist Zakir Naik, planned and executed the act of arson.

The agency will also look at possible handlers and aides that may have been part of this conspiracy and examine the inter-state linkages, considering that Saifi is a resident of Shaheen Bagh in Delhi and was arrested from Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.

The NIA has been involved in the train arson case right from the start and engaged in an investigation with officers from its Kochi branch.

The agency officers also reached the incident site soon after the attack to examine the cause of the fire and collect samples for forensic analysis.

On April 2, Saifi had attempted to set some passengers on fire on board the Alappuzha-Kannur Executive Express at Elathur in Kozhikode, after spraying them with an inflammable liquid. Three passengers lost their lives while trying to jump out of the train to escape the fire. Saifi was later arrested from Ratnagiri.

Also Read: Suspect who set passengers ablaze on Kerala train arrested in Maharashtra