//Varanasi Blast suspects innocent, freed

Varanasi Blast suspects innocent, freed

Posted on Mar 13, 2006 by Sudhir

The hunt for the Varanasi bombers suffered a setback on Saturday with eyewitnesses failing to identify the eight persons detained in connection with the blasts, including Sadik Ali and Ansar Ali, who resembled the sketches released by the police.

The Special Task Force (STF) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) said the detained men were “innocent” vendors selling goggles and let them off on Sunday. The involvement of Sadik Ali and Ansar Ali — picked up by the Hardoi police — has been ruled out, said CO (city) V.S. Yadav, who is camping in Varanasi.

The duo had claimed that they were in Shahjahanpur on the day of the blasts. Enquiries at Alka Guest House in Shahjahanpur reveals that two rooms were booked in their names. They stayed there from March 5 to 9. The suspects detained in Kotwali Dehat — Ghulam Abbas, Sharaf Ali, Abbas Ali, Raju Ali, Jafar Husain and Mukhtar Husain — have also been released.

Ansar Ali, till Saturday on the probe radar, is of Iranian descent and has been in the country for three generations now. His ancestors had settled in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. All the men detained were Indian citizens and Shia Muslims.

The development also raises questions about the credibility of the sketches prepared on the basis of eyewitness accounts. During the identification parade, the vendors appeared confused. “The interrogators are verifying the suspects’ claims but the sketches have become doubtful after the confusing statement of the vendors,” a source said. The role of the state police has also come under the scanner with sources alleging the goggle vendors were picked up when they refused to sell their wares at dirt-cheap prices to a few policemen.

With this setback, fears abound that the terror trail might run cold. Earlier investigations into the Shamjeevi train blast — which claimed 14 lives — as well as the one in Dashasumedh Ghat last year — casualty seven — do not inspire confidence. A sketch of the suspect was released in the Shramjeevi case, but no headway has been made till today.