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Bengaluru cafe blast: NIA arrests ex-terror convict computer engineer

May 25, 2024 01:09 IST

The National Investigation Agency arrested a computer engineer on Friday for his alleged involvement in Bengaluru's Rameshwaram Cafe blast, officials said.

IMAGE: People are seen running for cover after explosion at Rameshwaram Cafe that was caught on CCTV camera, in Bengaluru, Karnataka, March 1, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Shoaib Ahmed Mirza alias Chhotu (35), a resident of Hubbali city in Karnataka, is the fifth person to be arrested in the case, they said.

Mirza is a computer engineer.

In 2016, he was sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment in a 2012 case related to a conspiracy hatched by Pakistan-based terror organisations Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami to carry out targeted killings of important personalities of the Hindu community in Bengaluru and Hubbali with an intent to disturb communal harmony, the officials said.

"Three days after a massive crackdown across four states in the Rameshwaram Cafe blast case, the NIA on Friday arrested one more accused, identified as an ex-convict in an LeT terror conspiracy case," a statement issued by the NIA said.

Further investigations into the handler's role and the larger conspiracy behind the blast, which left several people injured and caused extensive damage to property on March 1, are continuing, it added.

The NIA, which took over the Rameshwaram Cafe blast case on March 3, had on April 12 arrested two key accused -- mastermind Adbul Matheen Ahmed Taahaa and Mussavir Hussain Shazib (the perpetrator of the attack) -- from their hideout in Kolkata, where they were staying under assumed identities.

The duo, along with co-accused Maaz Muneer Ahmed and Muzammil Shareef, a resident of Khalsa in Karnataka's Chikkamagaluru, have already been arrested by the NIA, the officials said.

They said in 2018, Mirza befriended and introduced Taahaa to an "online handler" suspected to be abroad.

Mirza further provided an e-mail address for encrypted communication between the handler and Taahaa, the officials said.

During the course of its investigation into the cafe blast, the NIA has conducted extensive searches at 29 locations across the country.

In a coordinated action, NIA teams searched multiple locations in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in connection with the case on May 21. During the operation, extensive searches were conducted at premises linked to 11 suspects, including Mirza, the officials said.

"Following the searches, Mirza was questioned by the NIA. After getting sufficient evidence, he was taken into custody on Friday for his involvement in the Rameshwaram cafe blast," an official said.

The investigations revealed that Mirza got involved in the fresh conspiracy after being released from jail in the LeT terror conspiracy case registered by the Karnataka Police on August 29, 2012.

The NIA took over the probe in the case on November 25, 2012. After thorough investigation, Mirza and 12 others were convicted and sentenced to jail.

All the 13 accused, including Mirza, had "pleaded guilty to all the crimes as charged by the NIA before the NIA special court, Bengaluru and requested the court for leniency for returning back to the society", an official said.

The court had, in 2016, convicted all of them on their plea of guilt. Mirza was sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment and slapped with a fine of Rs 3,000, the officials said.

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