UAPA slapped on man who set co-passengers on fire in train: Official

By, Thiruvananthapuram
Apr 17, 2023 12:21 AM IST

The SIT’s investigation in Delhi showed that “he was mentored and radicalised” by certain terror outfits, an official said.

The special investigation team (SIT) of Kerala police on Sunday invoked the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against Shahrukh Saifi, the sole accused in the Kannur express train arson case , an official said.

Accused Shahrukh Saifi is a resident of Shaheen Bagh in Delhi. (PTI)
Accused Shahrukh Saifi is a resident of Shaheen Bagh in Delhi. (PTI)

Also Read: 3 die as man sets co-passengers on fire in Kerala train

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Fresh charges were slapped on Saifi after detailed investigation and a report was submitted to the sessions court in Kozhikode in this regard, the official said, declining to be named.

The SIT’s investigation in Delhi showed that “he was mentored and radicalised” by certain terror outfits, he said. Saifi is a resident of Shaheen Bagh in Delhi. A carpenter by profession, he helped his father run a small furniture workshop in the national capital.

The latest charge enables the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to take over the case. The NIA submitted a report to the Union home ministry last week, saying “it was a clear case of terror” and a thorough investigation was needed to unearth conspiracy and involvement of mentors and handlers of the accused, the official said.

Also Read | NIA to take over Kerala train fire case: Officials

There was criticism over the delay in invoking UAPA against the accused. The Bharatiya Janata Party had accused the state government of going slow on disruptive forces.

On April 2, Saifi allegedly sprinkled petrol on passengers of the D-1 compartment of Kannur-bound Executive Express and lit them afire. Three persons, including a child, died after they jumped out of the moving train in panic; nine others received burn injuries. Saifi was arrested two days later from Ratnagiri in Maharashtra and brought to Kerala.

The accused was earlier charged with murder and taken to various places as part of evidence collection. He was identified by two passengers during an identification parade. It was difficult for Saifi to carry out such an attack on his own and several clues clearly showed involvement of others, the official said.

There have been reports in local media that five persons including a corporation councillor was questioned and detained, but the SIT refused to confirm it.

The SIT had received CCTV footage from Kannur railway station that showed Saifi was wearing a different shirt after fleeing from the fire incident spot in Elathur in Kozhikode district. He had lost his bag in the mayhem soon after the fire and how he managed to get another shirt should be investigated, said the official. Evidence collected from his lost bag led to his arrest from Ratnagiri, he added.

Saifi’s lunch box had some home-cooked food that showed that he may have got some local help, SIT investigators said, adding that he insisted during interrogation that the crime was planned and executed solely by him.

After reaching Shoranur station in the early hours of April 2, he reportedly spent more than 12 hours at the station. How he selected a day train and what was the motive remains a mystery, investigators said, wishing to remain anonymous. Saifi could have received local assistance, they said.

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    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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