Man who set co-passengers on fire inside Kerala train arrested

By, Manish K Pathak, Thiruvananthapuram/mumbai
Apr 06, 2023 05:10 AM IST

Saifi, a resident of Shaheen Bagh in south Delhi, appeared to have been injured either while trying to set his co-passengers on fire.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad, late on Tuesday, nabbed Shahrukh Saifi, 27, from Ratnagiri, three days after he sprinkled petrol on co-passengers in a moving train that had just left Kozhikode station in Kerala, resulting in the death of three passengers.

Police carry out checks at Central Railway Station in light of the arson attack inside a train near Kozhikode, in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. (PTI)
Police carry out checks at Central Railway Station in light of the arson attack inside a train near Kozhikode, in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. (PTI)

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

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He was arrested on the basis of inputs from Kerala Police and Central intelligence agencies. Saifi’s motive remains unclear, although Kerala Police believe the incident was planned, and that he was working with others.

Saifi, a resident of Shaheen Bagh in south Delhi, appeared to have been injured either while trying to set his co-passengers on fire, or when he fell off a train in Khed in Ratnagiri district, and was admitted to a local hospital in Ratnagiri. The Kerala police was able to track his location when he switched on his mobile phone.

“When we reached the hospital, he was not there. We arrested him while he was trying to take a train to flee ,” said Maharashtra anti-terror squad chief Mahesh Patil.

“We received information from a central agency on Tuesday evening that the suspect’s mobile phone location was found in Ratnagiri. Accordingly, a team of Navi Mumbai ATS officials alerted the local police and visited Ratnagiri, where they found Saifi at the railway station,” he told reporters.

Patil said the ATS team handed Saifi over to the Kerala police team that arrived in Ratnagiri on Wednesday morning. Kerala police chief Anil Kant said the arrest was the “result of effective co-ordination between different agencies” and the Kerala police has searched his house in Shaheen Bagh. “We have got some leads from the searches,” he said, refusing to reveal more .

Also read: Fresh communal violence in Bengal’s Hooghly, train services disrupted

According to Delhi Police, Saifi’s family lodged a missing person complaint with Shaheen Bagh police and were not aware he was in Kerala. The oldest of three brothers, Saifi lives with his parents, siblings and grandmother at their two-storey home in a narrow unpaved lane of Abul Fazal Enclave Part 2 in Shaheen Bagh.

His father, Fakrudddin, said the police came on Tuesday and took away some books and gadgets used by the class 12 pass-out. His neighbours said Saifi used to help out in his father’s carpentry business. Fakruddin said they lodged missing complaint at the Shaheen Bagh police station on April 2.

By then, Saifi was at the other end of the country, although it is not clear how he got there , or why.

On the night of April 2, according to Kerala Police Saifi took out two petrol bottles from his bag soon after Alappuzha- Kannur Inter-City Express train left Kozhikode station around 9.30 pm. At about 9.45 pm that night, he started sprinkling petrol on co-passengers of D-1 compartment and set them on fire before they could react.

In the commotion some passengers jumped from the running train; two persons including a child died when they jumped out. Nine others sustained burns. Saifi is also believed to have suffered some burns.

The Kerala Police suspect Saifi also jumped from the train. He left his bag containing another bottle of petrol and some identity documents behind. The CCTV footage of the train station and the documents helped the police identify him, and also ascertain his mobile number, which was switched off.

A senior Kerala police officer said that they believe Saifi took the Sampark Kranti Express from Kannur to Mumbai and was planning to go to Gujarat .

“We are trying to find out the motive behind his attack. We believe he could not have carried out such a brazen attack without local support,” this officer added, asking not to be named. .

The officer said it was intriguing how Saifi travelled 800-odd kms from Kannur with his injuries, always a step ahead of the police. Police have recovered some CCTV footage from Kannur railway station in which he can be seen speaking to two other persons.

The officer said that the police believe Saifi’s accomplices were elsewhere on the same train.

Back in Delhi, Saifi’s parents, the Kerala officer added, have said that their son has not travelled overseas and doesn’t know Malayalam.“It may have even been a botched self-immolation to inflict maximum damage,” the police officer said.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan congratulated the state police and other agencies for the quick arrest.

(With inputs from Shiv Sunny in New Delhi)

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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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