M'rashtra govt may declare reward on Afzal Usmani

M'rashtra govt may declare reward on Afzal Usmani

Maharashtra Police have sought clearance from the government to announce a cash reward to anyone who can provide information on the whereabouts of 2008 Ahmedabad and Surat blast case suspect Afzal Usmani, who escaped from the premises of Sessions court in Mumbai on Friday.

The proposal has been sent to the state home department and the quantum will be announced on Monday. Last month, the state government announced an award of Rs 10 lakh for information on the identities or whereabouts of the killers who assassinated anti-obscurantist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune. However, till date nobody has come forward with any information on the assassins.

An alert has been sounded across the country. Around 22 teams have fanned out to various states to ferret out  37-year-old Usmani a car-thief and a small-time operative in Indian Mujahideen (IM).

Usmani was brought from the Taloja Jail in Navi Mumbai to Sessions Court for the framing of charges in a separate case, when he just went “missing” from the bench kept outside the MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act) court on the fifth floor of the Sessions Court building.

Usmani, who used to operate with one Fazlul Rahmani gang of 90s that specialised in car-jacking, highway robberies and extortion from transporting traders in Mumbai and Gujarat; the gang though considered as “chirkoot” (small-time) came into light after his name cropped up in a firing case that had taken place in front of the Sea Princes Hotel near Juhu beach.

Usmani though was also reported to be close to some members of the banned SIMI members was booked in 1996 for trying to bump off a man by the name Pandey.

Thereafter, Usmani remained in shadows till his arrest in 2008 by Thane crime branch officials tracked him down to Uttar Pradesh while investigating car thefts.

The Mumbai crime branch later claimed took his custody and in a press conference announced that the arrest of Usmani, “was a major blow” to the Maharashtra module of IM. However, top police officials conceded that “Usmani while did transport the car laden with explosives that were later used for carrying out blasts in Ahmedabad and Surat, the fact also remains that he is just a small-time foot soldier.”

A series of 20 blasts had rocked Ahmedabad on July 26, 2008, claiming over 50 lives and injuring around 200 people; the next day saw unearthing of 22 bombs planted in Surat city. Next month he was picked by Thane crime branch officials in a car theft investigation.

Incidentally, Usmani's brother Faiz Usmani, had died after questioning by police in connection with the Mumbai blasts of 2011 and the family had taken the matter to the court alleging that he had been attacked.