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Kerala Train Arson Case: Accused Charged with Terrorism, Online Radicalization Revealed
Kerala Train Arson Case: Accused Charged with Terrorism, Online Radicalization Revealed

Kochi: On September 29th, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed charges against 27-year-old Sharukh Saifi, the sole accused in the Kerala train arson case that resulted in the tragic deaths of three individuals, including a man, a woman, and a 2-year-old child, and left nine others injured.

The NIA released a statement outlining the charges, which include various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, Railways Act, and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act. Saifi is accused of committing a terrorist act on April 2nd of this year by setting fire to the D1 Coach of the Alappuzha-Kannur Executive Express.

According to the disturbing details revealed in the NIA chargesheet, Saifi intentionally ignited the fire by dousing passengers with petrol and setting the coach ablaze with a lighter. The document states, "A resident of Shaheenbagh, New Delhi, Saifi had boarded the moving Alappuzha-Kannur Executive Express, committed the terror act and continued to travel in the same train till Kannur, before escaping to Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, from where he was eventually arrested."

Saifi departed from the national capital on March 31st and arrived in Kerala on April 2nd. The notification indicates, "The accused purchased petrol from a petrol bunk in Shoranur and a lighter from a nearby store at Shoranur Railway Station." He selected the southern state as the location for his act of terrorism to avoid recognition.

The perpetrator had initially intended to return to normal life after executing his dreadful plan, designed to instill fear in the public. The official notice reveals, "He was self-radicalized through various online propaganda materials available on social media in favor of violent extremism and Jihad as propagated by radical Islamic preachers of Indian and foreign nationalities."

During this period, he used social media channels to follow hardline and extreme Islamic preachers, particularly those with the name Menk, based in Pakistan. He had been radicalized online and orchestrated the arson as a terrorist attack.

 

The statement conveys, "The case was initially registered as First Information Report No. 38/2023 at Kozhikode Railway Police Station, Kerala State, and later by Special Investigation Team, Kerala. On 17th April, the NIA took over the investigations of the case (RC-01/2023/NIAIKOC) on orders from the Ministry of Home Affairs."

The NIA conducted searches at 10 locations in Delhi as part of its investigations, seizing digital gadgets from those sites. CCTV footage from the railway station was also obtained, and several witnesses were interviewed during the inquiry.

On April 2nd, a fire erupted in the Alappuzha-Kannur Executive Express after Sharukh Saifi, a resident of Delhi's Shaheen Bagh, set a coach on fire by pouring petrol on passengers when the train reached Korapuzha bridge near Elathur in Kozhikode at around 9:45 p.m. The victims were identified as Rahmat, her sister's daughter, Sahara Bathul, and a neighbor, Rasiq.

The accused allegedly worked as a carpenter and a YouTuber. He was arrested in Ratnagiri, where he was receiving medical treatment for burn wounds believed to have been sustained during the terrorist act. Additionally, he suffered injuries when he jumped from the moving train.

According to Additional Director General of Police M R Ajith Kumar, who also headed the special investigative team in Kozhikode, Saifi is an avid follower of Islamist preacher Zakir Naik. Kumar emphasized, "Sharukh Saifi has been constantly watching Naik’s videos. He is an extremely radicalized man who arrived in Kerala with the intent to commit the crime. All the evidence linking him to the crime has been acquired."

Saifi underwent a lifestyle change in June of the previous year, quitting smoking and dedicating more time to prayer. He was reportedly approached by extremists due to his social media activities, even though his YouTube channel had a limited number of viewers. His disappearance from his residence on March 30th prompted his parents to file a missing person complaint.

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