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November 17, 2001
0140 IST

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Delhi police link Asif Raza with Omar Sheikh

Onkar Singh in New Delhi

K K Paul, chief of the Delhi police crime branch, has confirmed that Asif Raza Khan, the man arrested in the capital on October 29, had direct contact with Omar Sheikh, the London-based Kashmiri terrorist released by the Government of India with Maulana Masood Azhar and Asif Zargar in exchange for the passengers of the hijacked Flight IC-814 in December 1999.

"Yes, our interrogation has confirmed that Asif Raza was in direct contact with Omar Sheikh and in fact had travelled to Pakistan to meet the released terrorist and chalk out plans to target Delhi," Dr Paul told rediff.com on Friday.

"We had arrested three persons in this case. But selective leaks to the media by some officers spoilt our case," he added.

Besides Asif Raza, the others arrested were Arshad Khan of Multan and an Indian woman, Anita Dass. "This woman was helping the others in hiring places in Delhi and elsewhere. She would tell the owners of the houses that Asif and she were husband and wife," Paul said.

The crime branch chief said Asif Raza had first met Omar Sheikh in Tihar Jail in 1999. Asif Raza travelled to Pakistan to meet Sheikh after the Government of India released the latter. "During this meeting they discussed plans to strike in Delhi to create terror," Paul said.

Asif Raza and his accomplices had allegedly collected more than Rs 8 crore [about $1,650,000 at the current exchange rate] as ransom by kidnapping prominent persons. They had even bought some houses in Calcutta, which they used as hideouts.

"In all, seven persons have been arrested so far, three by the Delhi police and four by the CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation]. The arrests have been made from Delhi, Gurgaon, Gujarat and some other places. We are still investigating the case and more arrests are not ruled out," Paul added.

Omar Sheikh's name figures prominently in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's list of persons wanted for involvement in the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Sheikh is reported to have wired $100,000 to Mohammad Ata, leader of the terrorist cell that carried out the attacks, from Pakistan. The FBI has even traced the public telephone booth from where someone made three international calls to Ata's house in Hamburg, Germany.

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