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Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Ahmed Umer Saeed Sheikh, who is reported to have wired $100,000 to Mohammad Atta, one of the hijackers involved in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, was arrested by the Delhi police in November 1994 for kidnapping four foreigners.
He was booked under sections 342, 344, 346, 364A, 365, 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 124A of the Indian Penal Code and sections 3&4 of the TADA Act.
Born on December 23, 1973 in London, Umer, son of Saeed Ahmed Sheikh, was residing at 16 Deyn Court Garden in London before he, along with his family, migrated to Pakistan in September 1992.
He came to Delhi on July 26,1994 from Lahore by Pakistan International Airlines and stayed at hotel Holiday Inn in Connaught Place for a day.
Member of the banned terrorist organisation Harkat-ul-Ansar, this innocent looking 21-year-old was assigned the task of kidnapping foreign nationals in Delhi and using them to secure the release of some top militants being held in jails in Jammu and Kashmir.
During his stay in Delhi, Umer used various names to disguise his identity. If at one time he was Rohit Sharma, at another he was Amir Sohail.
"I checked into Holiday Inn under my own name," Umer told interrogators after his arrest. "My mentor was Maulana Abdullah in Lahore in Pakistan, who gave me instructions from time to time. I was told to befriend foreign nationals. My task was to help my accomplices in Delhi in kidnapping foreign nationals," he revealed.
Umer visited Agra in a tourist bus and befriended an Israeli by the name of Akhmir. "This was sometime in late July, 1994. On our return journey the bus broke down. My self, Ahkmir and an Iranian couple took a lift in a Maruti van and came to Delhi and got off at Ashram Chowk. While the Iranian couple took an auto and went to their hotel, I took Akhmir to my friend Salahuddin's hideout in Nizamuddin and waited to tell him the good news (that he had kidnapped a foreigner). However, I got rebuked for getting an Israeli," he told investigators.
After this Umer made several attempts to kidnap foreigners, but failed. He travelled to Deoband, Sharanpur, Dehradun, Mussorrie looking for potential targets.
According to Delhi police records, he eventually succeeded in kidnapping Rhys Patridge, Chistopher Miles Crosten, Paul B Rideout and Bela Joesph Nuss. While Patridge was kidnapped on September 29, 1994, Crosten and Rideout were kidnapped on October 16 and Nuss was kidnapped on October 20 the same year.
"We had kept our victims in a house in Saharanpur and were hoping to take them to another place when a police party raided and arrested us all," he said.
At the time of his arrest, the Delhi police recovered one AK-47, several other small arms and a large quantity of ammunition from Umer Sheikh.
Umer underwent intensive arms training in some of the camps run by the Taleban.
He was released from the Delhi's Tihar jail and taken to Kandahar along with Maulana Masood Azhar and Sheikh Ahmed Zargar in exchange for the release of the passengers of Indian Airlines IC 814 flight held hostage in Kandahar by five hijackers.
"Though from time to time we have heard about Masood Azhar and Zargar, we don't know where this man is right now," a top Delhi police official told rediff.com.
"I believe while others were hogging the limelight, he with the help of his mentors in the ISI and the Taleban was hatching a plot to hijack American planes," said another officer.
The War on Terrorism: The Complete Coverage
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External Link: For further coverage, please visit www.saja.org/roundupsept11.html
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