Saudi not soft on anti-India terror, says Home Secy

Fasihs arrest very important catch

Describing the arrest of suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorist Fasih Mohammad here as a “very important catch”, the UPA government believes that the deportation of two key fugitives, including terror suspect Abu Jundal, by Saudi Arabia in a short span of time, will debunk perception that the Arab state is a safe haven for anti-India activities.

Union Home Secretary R K Singh said Fasih was deported to New Delhi on Monday morning. A resident of Bihar, he graduated in mechanical engineer from the port city of Bhatkal in Karnataka and a year later fled to Saudi Arabia in 2007. He was handed over to the Delhi Police, who along with the Bangalore police had registered terror cases against him in connection with the Jama Masjid shootout and the 2010 Chinnaswamy stadium blast in Bangalore. Interpol Red Corner Notices were issued on the request of these police.

Singh told reporters, “Fasih was the ‘key facilitator’ for 13 IM terrorists arrested from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other places last year. Earlier, Fasih’s wife had approached the Supreme court charging that her husband was in the custody of the Indian security agencies which was denied by the government. He (Fasih) was deported after he served a sentence in Saudi Arabia,”

It is learnt that Fasih was close to IM mastermind Riyaz Bhatkal and his brother, who had also studied in Bhatkal. Fasih was in constant touch with ISI operatives, including Bhatkal brothers from his Saudi base.

Indian agencies had to convince their Saudi counterparts with “material evidence” against Fasih to seek his deportation to New Delhi for trial in terrorism-linked cases. Sources said that he was under detention in Saudi Arabia on the tip off of Indian agencies.

Praising Saudi authorities for excellent cooperation, the home secretary said they never opposed handing over of Fasih but only took some time to be convinced that he was an Indian. Asked if Pakistan tried to thwart efforts this time too as it unsuccessfully did to prove that Abu Jundal, the key handler of 26/11 Mumbai bomb attacks, was a Pakistan national, a government officer hinted at some attempts in Saudi Arabia to botch chances of bringing him here.

In the case of Jundal, India had produced DNA evidence to convince the Saudi authorities that he hailed from Maharashtra in India and was not a Pakistani. Islamabad had countered India’s bid on the basis of the fake passport they had provided to Jundal to cover up his real identity.

The perception of Saudi as a safe have for terror suspects had gained ground over the years as underworld dons like Dawood Ibrahim and others took refuge in the Gulf to avoid direct links with Pakistan.

A home ministry official, however, noted that so far the Saudis have deported only Indian nationals. The real test would be if they deport or extradite other nationals wanted by us in terror cases. The ministry and the Delhi Police are, however, underplaying the bilateral relations cultivated over time as the excessive publicity to  Jundal’s deportation had upset the Saudis.

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