Over 16 years after the terror attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar, that claimed 34 lives, the police on Monday arrested a man allegedly involved in the assault case on his arrival at the city airport, officials said.
Based on a specific tip-off, Ahmedabad Crime Branch officials nabbed Mohammed Farooq Shaikh (47) as soon as he arrived at the airport from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he had been living since 1994, said Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Bhagirathsinh Gohil.
"We have arrested one Mohammed Farooq Shaikh from the city airport upon his arrival from Saudi Arabia. Shaikh used to live in Juhapura area of the city. He was part of the conspiracy to carry out the attack on Akshardham," he said.
Elaborating on Shaikh's alleged role in the episode, the officer said the accused was involved in collecting funds for the operation with the help of banned Pakistan-based terror outfits Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Gohil said Shaikh had been living in Riyadh since 1994 and hatched the conspiracy with others to target the temple to avenge the killings of minority community members in the 2002 post-Godhra riots.
"He watched the videos of Gujarat riots and decided to avenge the killing of Muslims. As part of the conspiracy to spread terror in Gujarat, Shaikh held meetings with terror operatives linked with Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba there," said Gohil.
"Shaikh is accused of collecting and sending funds to carry out the attack on Akshardham temple. The money sent by Shaikh was used in buying firearms used by the terrorists," he added.
On September 24, 2002, two armed terrorists entered the Akshardham temple complex in Gandhinagar and opened fire on devotees, leaving 34 dead and injuring 84 others.
The attack had taken place seven months after Gujarat was rocked by widespread communal violence triggered by the torching of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra station.
The attackers were subsequently killed by National Security Guard (NSG) commandos.
The Supreme Court had, in May 2014, acquitted all the six convicts in the case, including three awarded the death sentence by the trial court, for want of sufficient evidence against them.