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Maharashtra ATS arrests JeM terrorist in RSS memorial recce bid case

Nagpur, May 18

The Nagpur Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) unit has arrested a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist from Jammu and Kashmir who had allegedly conducted a recce of Hedgewar Smruti Bhavan of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) here in Maharashtra last year, an official said on Wednesday.

Raees Ahmed Sheikh Asadulla Sheikh had allegedly conducted a partial recce of the Hedgewar Smruti Bhavan in the Reshim Bagh area of Nagpur and managed to send a video of the Bhavan to his handler in Pakistan, he said.

The ATS recently took Sheikh, 26, a resident of Awantipora town in J-K’s Pulwama district, into custody on a production warrant from J-K and extensively questioned him over the last two days, he said.

Sheikh told the investigators that a person named Omar, claimed to be the operational commander of JeM’s Nawabpur (Pakistan)-based terrorist launching pad, was his handler.

He came here by a Delhi-Mumbai-Nagpur flight on July 13, 2021 and checked into a hotel in Sitabuldi area. The handler had assured Sheikh that a local man would contact and help him in the operation in Nagpur. However, Sheikh conducted the reconnaissance on his own as no person contacted him in Nagpur, the official said.

On July 14, Sheikh took an auto-rickshaw and reached the Reshim Bagh area with the help of Google Maps. The location was sent by his handler, he said.

His target was to conduct the recce of the Smruti Bhavan. He alighted near the Reshim Bagh ground in the afternoon.

Sheikh then switched on his mobile phone camera and held it near his head to show as if he was speaking to someone over the phone. He walked through the Reshimbagh ground while capturing its video, the official said.

Sheikh shared the video with his handler on WhatsApp, but the latter got angry over its poor quality and instructed him to again shoot a video. However, Sheikh refused to do so citing police security and switched off the mobile phone, the official said.

He then called the auto-rickshaw driver and asked to take him to a mosque. The auto driver dropped him at a mosque near the Santra Market gate, where he stayed the whole day and returned to the hotel in the evening.

On July 15, Sheikh went to Srinagar by a Nagpur-Delhi-Srinagar flight, the official said.

The Kotwali police station here had earlier registered a case against Sheikh under various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Earlier this year, the then Maharashtra Director General of Police Sanjay Pandey had transferred the probe into the case to the state ATS.

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