New Delhi, Feb 7:

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday confirmed that Dubai-based Shamshul Hoda, who acted as “mastermind” for an ISI-backed plot to cause train accidents in India, was arrested by Nepal police.

“Shamshul Hoda has been arrested by Nepal police after being deported from Dubai,” a senior NIA official told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

The official said that in 2014-2015, Hoda started working for the fake Indian currency racket of Karachi-based Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agent Shafi Shaikh to pay back the huge amount of money he had borrowed for contesting an election in Nepal, which he had lost.

“As Hoda was not satisfied with the money he was earning in fake currency business, Shaikh offered to pay more for spreading panic in India by causing stampedes, accidents, burning government buildings or cause riots, to which he agreed.

“Hoda was then made to visit Pakistan in early 2016 where he met ISI handlers and was trained. Later, he returned to Nepal and started forming a gang to carry out attacks,” the NIA official said.

He described Hoda’s arrest as a “big breakthrough” in three cases handed over to the NIA.

The three cases are: a failed attempt to detonate an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) on the Ghorasahan track in East Champaran district of Bihar on October 1, 2016; the suspected terror act behind the Indore-Patna Express train accident in Kanpur on November 20, 2016, which killed 149 people; and derailment of Hirakhand Express in Koneru in Andhra Pradesh on January 21 that resulted in deaths of 41 persons.

The NIA official said that the agency is in touch with the Nepalese authorities to get access to Hoda for questioning.

After the Home Ministry’s January 25 and 26 orders, the NIA took over the Ghorasahan, Kanpur and Koneru cases to probe the ISI’s role, which was first pointed to by the Bihar Police.

In January, the Bihar Police arrested three criminals from Motihari — Moti Paswan, Uma Shankar Patel and Mukesh Yadav — and informed central agencies about their links with ISI agent Hoda and the Ghorasahan and Kanpur incidents.

“Technical evidences and the initial questioning of the three arrested criminals by Bihar Police have led NIA to probe ISI’s role in two train accidents and a failed attempt of track blast in India…,” a Home Ministry official said.

“WhatsApp chat details and other technical evidences has indicated clear link among the arrested criminals, Nepalese handler Brajesh Giri, Dubai-based mastermind Shamshul Huda as well as a Karachi-based suspected ISI agent Shafi Shaikh. All these inputs are enough to confirm the ISI role,” he said.

Initial investigations reveal that Giri had given Rs 3 lakh to the arrested criminals for planting a bomb on the rail tracks at Ghorasahan.

Investigators said that Umashankar Patel, one of the accused, came in touch with Hoda and Shaikh during a telephonic conversation organised by Giri when the two were together in Dubai around seven months ago. (IANS)