One of the key plotters of 26/11 Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal and 11 others were on Thursday convicted by a special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case. The court acquitted eight others in the case while trial of two accused have been separated.
The MCOCA court said that this was a larger conspiracy to strike terror and they (accused) were calling it ‘jihad’.
Special MCOCA Judge Shrikant Anekar delivered the verdict after final arguments in the case concluded recently following a ten-year-long wait. The court also dropped MCOCA charges in the case, in which 22 people, including Lashkar-e-Toiba operative Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, were arrested.
The MCOCA court upheld the prosecution’s claim that this was a conspiracy after 2002 Gujarat riots to eliminate then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi and VHP leader Praveen Togadia.
Based on a tip-off, the plan was foiled by a team of Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS). On May 8, 2006, the squad chased a Tata Sumo and a Tata Indica car on Chandwad-Manmad Highway near Aurangabad and arrested three terror suspects — Mohammed Aamir Shakil Ahmed, Mohammed Juber Sayyed Anwar and Abdul Azeem Abdul Jameel Shaikh alias Raja — who were in the Tata Sumo.
The Tata Indica car, which was allegedly driven by Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal currently in Arthur Road jail for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack, had under mysterious circumstances managed to escape the ATS team that was chasing them.
On May 8, 2006, a Maharashtra ATS team arrested three terror suspects and seized 30kg of RDX, 10 AK-47 assault rifles and 3,200 bullets after chasing 2 cars on the Chandwad-Manmad highway near Aurangabad.
Jundal, a Lashkar operative, was at the time apparently driving one of the cars and got away. The terrorist, who hails from the Beed district of Maharashtra, is said to have driven to Malegaon, after which police say he escaped to Bangladesh and then Pakistan.
He was deported to India from Saudi Arabia in 2012. Later, charges were framed against the arrested accused in August 2013. During the trial, the prosecution examined 100 witnesses while defence lawyers examined 16.
The trial was stayed by the Supreme Court for a while after one of the accused challenged constitutional validity of certain provisions of MCOCA. The stay was vacated in 2009. In August last year, the Bombay High Court directed the lower court to expedite the trial.