Maoists behind AP rail accident, says NIA

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Railway Minister earlier hinted at Pak.-backed saboteurs

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) suspects that the Kuneru rail accident in Andhra Pradesh was the job of Maoists, a First Information Report (FIR) registered by the agency has said.

The Railway Ministry had earlier said that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was involved in a series of rail accidents in the past six months, which included the derailment of the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneshwar Express near Kuneru on January 22, where over 40 people were killed.

Preliminary assessment

“The Central government is of the opinion that the act of derailment is a suspected terrorist act by Left Wing Extremists and is a scheduled offence under the NIA Act,” an FIR registered by the NIA said.

A senior NIA official said it was preliminary information and the probe was yet to be completed and they were exploring all angles.

Since the area is close to the Maoist-affected zone, the suspicion of their involvement cannot be ruled out, said an official.

The last time Maoists targeted a rail track was in 2010, when a goods train rammed into the Gyaneshwari Express, which was made to derail by removing the fish plates. Over 100 people were killed in the accident, which took place near Jhargram in West Bengal. The CBI arrested members of a Maoist-backed group for the crime.

Three cases sent to NIA

Based on Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s letter to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, alleging sabotage in at least six train accidents, three cases were transferred to the NIA.

Besides the Kuneru accident, the other two cases being investigated for terror links are the Kanpur train accident when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express derailed on November 20, 2016, killing more than 140 people and the recovery of a pressure cooker bomb near the rail track at Ghorasan in Bihar on October 1, 2016.

Mr. Prabhu’s letter suspecting foul play in the accidents was sent after the arrest of Moti Paswan, one of three persons arrested by the Bihar police in January for his alleged involvement in planting a pressure cooker bomb at Ghorasan, claimed that they had planted the bomb at Kanpur, leading to the train’s derailment, at the behest of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Shamshul Hoda, a Nepalese businessman, who was questioned by the NIA in Nepal, while confirming that he had been asked by a Pakistani man, Shafi Sheikh, to plant explosives at Ghorasan in Motihari, Bihar, said he was unaware of any such plan for the Kanpur and Kuneru railway derailments.

PM’s statement

During an electoral rally in Gonda on February 23, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the Kanpur accident was “a conspiracy and conspirators carried it out sitting across the border.” Mr. Rajnath Singh, however, told the Parliament last week that “The Prime Minister did not directly mention ISI’s name in the Kanpur train derailment case” and investigations in three railway track accidents, where sabotage is suspected, was yet to be completed by NIA.

A team of IIT professors are also assisting the NIA in the probe and have also visited the Kanpur and Kuneru rail accident sites.

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