Elathur train arson: those suspected of helping prime accused still untraced

It was on April 2, 2023 that Shahrukh Saifi attacked passengers on the Alappuzha-Kannur Executive Express

April 04, 2024 07:46 pm | Updated 07:47 pm IST - Kozhikode

A year after the shocking Elathur train arson that claimed three lives, the persons initially suspected of helping prime accused Shahrukh Saifi in executing the terror act on April 2, 2023 still remain untraced.

Though the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took over the probe into the incident from the Kerala Police, submitted the chargesheet six months ago, there was no reference to others, with the final assumption that the accused acted alone.

The NIA probe was recommended as the 26-year-old accused was booked under Section 16 (punishment for terrorist act) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA] by the Kerala Police. Incriminating pieces of evidence gathered against his allegedly radicalised life in his hometown and its connections with the train arson were instrumental in invoking the grave UAPA sections.

Ahead of taking over the probe, NIA officials were in Kozhikode to study the case file pertaining to?Saifi’s alleged act of dousing passengers with petrol and setting them on fire on the Alappuzha-Kannur Executive Express, shortly after the train passed the Elathur station near Kozhikode on April 2. Three passengers who reportedly leaped from the moving train died in their desperate attempt to escape the flames. Nine others sustained burns.

In the preliminary investigation by the Kerala Police, there were clear indications that Safi had visited Kerala earlier also. Though the man stayed silent throughout the interrogation, there was reportedly evidence with the NIA confirming his plans for bigger strikes. The NIA had accessed digital evidence to establish the suspicious motives behind?Saifi’s “premeditated attack”.

It was also suspected that there was a handler who pulled the strings. The statements of nine injured passengers who travelled on D1 coach of the train on April 2 first led the investigators to flag it as a terror act. According to police officers who were part of the initial inquiry, the statements of the injured that Saifi purposely sprayed petrol on the passengers was the strongest testimony to endorse the terror element.

The main reason to suspect the involvement of a handler or accomplice was Saifi’s escape from the crime spot. An abandoned bag from the crime spot was considered a tactic of the handler in the initial stage. The freshly cooked parcel of food found in his bag and a new shirt he wore after the attack were other elements that kindled suspicion among various national- and State-level investigation agencies. A few people were quizzed based on CCTV visuals, but there was no breakthrough.

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