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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) questioned suspected SIMI operative Azharudeen, who was arrested on Friday night from Hyderabad Airport after his arrival from Saudi Arabia about his links with the Indian Mujahideen (IM) in connection with the 2013 Bodh Gaya and Patna bomb blast cases, sources said on Monday.

A highly placed NIA source told IANS, “The agency questioned Azharudeen aka Chemical Ali in connection with the probe into the Bodh Gaya and Patna bomb blast cases of 2013 for over three hours while he was in police custody of the Chhattisgarh police.”

The source said Azharudeen, who is accused of giving shelter to the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) operatives involved in the bomb blasts and his call records showed that he was in constant touch with them, was questioned about how he was in touch with the Patna and Bodh Gaya blasts accused.

He said that he was also questioned about how he arranged for logistic support for the IM operatives in Raipur. He said that before the Bodh Gaya and Patna bomb blasts, “Azharudeen had arranged for IM operatives stay in Raipur and their travel logistics from Raipur to Patna and Patna to Raipur”.

In July 2013, at least 10 bombs went off in the Bodh Gaya’s Mahabodhi temple complex injuring five people. An unexploded cylinder bomb was also recovered from the temple complex. In 2018, a special NIA court in Patna convicted five IM militants in the 2013 Bodh Gaya blasts case and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

In October 2013, a series of bombs had exploded at a massive election rally of the then Gujarat Chief Minister and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan leaving six people dead and over 80 injured. The Chhattisgarh Police arrested Azharudeen from Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport on Friday soon after he arrived from Saudi Arabia, where he worked as a driver.

The Chhattisgarh Police arrested Azharudeen, a native of Raipur, who has been wanted since the last six years after he was named as an accused in connection with the Bihar blasts. Raipur Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Arif Sheikh had said that Azharudeen was arrested by a joint team of Chhattisgarh Police and its Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) following specific inputs that he was coming to India to meet his family that had shifted to Hyderabad.

The SSP said Azharudeen’s role in the two blasts came to light after the Chhattisgarh Police busted a SIMI sleeper cell in Raipur and arrested 17 people over a period of time, including sleeper cell head Umer Siddiqui.

Sheikh also said that a team of the Intelligence Bureau has also questioned Azharudeen. The SSP said that Azharudeen was remanded to two days’ police custody by a local court in Raipur on Saturday. He will be produced before the court on Monday afternoon again.

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