The decrepit buildings in Behrampura near Kabadi Market do not give any hint that ‘one of the most wanted terrorists of India’, Syed Abdul Karim alias Tunda, lived in this area where he mingled with residents at the local mosque. He was married to a city woman and had a son from her. The alleged bomb-maker of the terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT), who was recently arrested by the Delhi police from the India-Nepal border, had an Ahmedabad connection. His in-laws, however, are unwilling to talk about him and they are relieved that Karim alias Tunda has finally been arrested.

For Rafiq Abdul Rahman, a Shahpur resident, Tunda is a hazy memory. “He married my elder sister Mumtaz in 1983 in a simple ceremony and soon took a rented house in Behrampura area. He was then in his mid-forties. My sister was a little over-age (30) for marriage and we were desperately seeking a suitable match. A middleman had come with a proposal for Karim, a god-fearing man performing namaaz five times a day, and who looked after a mosque besides teaching holy books to children,” Rahman said.

He is a security guard today. “He stayed in the city till 1989 after which he returned to Delhi. While he was here in the city, he had taken to carpentry but sometimes dealt in scrap in Behrampura’s Kabadi Market when he got time from his mosque duties. He had many students in the area but I doubt whether anyone in the locality today remembers the stocky, reserved man. I remember that he seldom came inside our house when he dropped Mumtaz and Irshaan (born a year after marriage) at our place. We did not know of his earlier marriage at the time and were shocked when it was revealed to us,” Rahman said.

For his in-laws, Tunda does not bring happy memories. Rahman’s family members recount the ordeals they had to go through from 1993 to 2003 because of their being relatives of the terrorist. They say the security agencies were on the tracks of the man who came to be called ‘Tunda’ after he lost a hand in an ‘explosives accident’. Later, Tunda would be wanted for blasts across the country.

“After every major blast in the country, police would give us a visit in the dead of the night, go through our belongings and question us about our sister, Mumtaz. We had lost touch with her long time back. We even accompanied security officials to Karim’s rented house in Behrampura but it was already given to somebody else. Phone calls have continued to come over the years seeking information about Karim or Mumtaz or anybody else trying to get in touch with us. We have not heard about Mumtaz for the past two decades. We just hope she is fine along with our nephew,” said a family member.

For the Gujarat police, Tunda has remained an enigma for long. A senior IPS officer closely associated with the investigation of some of the blast cases, told TOI that Tunda became a fugitive in the 1990s after crossing international borders. Due to the collective effort of various police agencies, a red corner notice was issued against him by INTERPOL in 1996. By that time, security officials had come to know that Tunda had been to Bangladesh and then to Pakistan.

“Think of any known ‘terrorist’ – from Dawood Ibrahim to Hafiz Saeed – and the chances are Tunda has worked for him. For many years, during probe of blasts cases, his name kept cropping up as the trainer in making of improvised explosive devices (IED) or for floating of a module. The riots that followed the demolition of Babri mosque had made a deep impression on him,” said the official.

Will he be questioned by the state police? When TOI talked to officials in city crime branch and Gujarat anti-terrorists squad (ATS), they said there was no case pending against Tunda. Hence, the chances that he would be questioned are slim. The officials, however, mentioned a blast in a train in 1994 near Surat on which Tunda could throw some light. A team from state directorate of forensic sciences (DFS) is already helping the special cell of the Delhi police in its investigations.

Life in terror

– Born in 1943 in Daryaganj locality of Delhi

– His childhood was spent in Pilkhuwa area of Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad

– He has three wives – one from Uttar Pradesh, one from Gujarat and one from Pakistan

– Interested in explosives since a young age, he allegedly got burns from a firecracker at the age of 12. He later got training in IEDs from terror outfits

– Thought to have died in a blast in Bangladesh in 2000, Tunda was declared alive in 2005 whenAbdul Razzaq, an LeT operative caught by the Delhi police, told police about his presence in Pakistan

– He was one of the terrorists mentioned in the list sent from India to Pakistan in 2008 after the Mumbai terror attack. The other names include Hafiz Saeed, Maulana Masood Azhar and Dawood Ibrahim.


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