Kerala train arson: Suspect still absconding; investigation in primary phase, say Kerala Police

ADGP (Law and Order) MR Ajith Kumar said the investigating team had received information regarding the culprit and was verifying it.

BySreerag PS

Published Apr 04, 2023 | 7:47 PMUpdatedApr 04, 2023 | 8:33 PM

Kerala train arson: Suspect still absconding; investigation in primary phase, say Kerala Police

A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Kerala Police on Tuesday, 4 April, intensified its probe into an incident of arson aboard an express train in the Kozhikode district of Kerala, and was verifying information received about the suspect in the case, the cops said.

Two days after the incident rocked the state, senior officials of various probe agencies, including the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Railway Protection Force (RPF), inspected the coaches of the Alappuzha-Kannur Express on Tuesday.

Uttar Pradesh native Shahrookh Saifi was rumoured to be the prime suspect. However, the Kerala Police did not confirm the details about the identity of the accused.

On Sunday night, an unidentified man set fire to passengers after pouring petrol on them when the train reached the Korapuzha bridge near Elathur.

Nine people suffered burns and are undergoing treatment at various hospitals.

The bodies of a woman, an infant, and a man, who went missing after the fire, were recovered from the tracks near the Elathur railway station late on Sunday night.

The police believe they fell off the train or attempted to get down after seeing the fire.

Related: Kerala police hunt for man who started train fire that killed 3

Investigation in preliminary stage: ADGP

ADGP (Law and Order) MR Ajith Kumar said the investigating team had received information regarding the culprit and was verifying it.

“We have received much information regarding the culprit in our preliminary investigation. We have to verify the information. The probe is in the preliminary stage. We can’t divulge much about the investigation now,” Kumar told reporters.

Asked whether any person had been arrested or detained in connection to the incident, Kumar refrained from answering.

Meanwhile, a high-level meeting of senior officials of the government, RPF, and the Kerala Police was held in Kannur on Tuesday to evaluate the progress of the investigation.

Later in the evening, the ADGP visited the spot where the attack against passengers occurred.

Related: 18-member SIT to probe arson on Kerala train

UP ATS probes the case

The Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad has been following up on the case after rumours spread that the alleged person who arson on board belong to Bulandshahr in UP, part of the Delhi-NCR.

Speaking to a local news organisation, Shahrookh Saifi’s brother confirmed that the UP ATS visited their house and detained Saifi.

According to Shahrookh’s brother, when his family members enquired with the UP police on Tuesday morning, they got a response that Saifi was released after interrogation.

His brother also stated that Shahrookh had not travelled to Kerala nor did he have any friend in the state.

Yet another man with the same name, a resident of Shaheen Bagh on the Delhi-UP border, was also being investigated by the police.

Although South First contacted UP ATS chief ADG (Additional Director General) Naveen Arora, he was unavailable for comment due to an official meeting.

Also read: Pregnant woman and husband die as car catches fire in Kannur

RPF IG visits the spot

RPF IG GM Easwara Rao on Tuesday inspected the coaches of the train which is parked at Kannur station and said as part of increasing security, the Railway would consider setting up more CCTV cameras at stations and in coaches.

“We are reviewing the security gaps. Planning to instal CCTVs in more stations. We need to instal more CCTV even in small stations,” Rao said.

Rao added that the RPF was cooperating with the state police investigation into the attack and would provide all assistance.

Earlier, the SIT formed by the Kerala Police conducted a forensic examination inside the coaches and collected evidence.

The police have already released a computer-generated sketch of the person who is suspected to have poured petrol on passengers inside the compartment and set them on fire.

Various investigating agencies have also reportedly started probing possible terror links to the attack.

The hunt for the absconding accused is still on.

The incident occurred around 9.45 pm on Sunday when the train reached the Korapuzha railway bridge here after crossing Kozhikode city.

Initially, it was believed that the incident was the outcome of an altercation between the accused and another passenger.

Subsequently, the police and a passenger present in the compartment said the accused did not have any altercation with anyone.

He poured an inflammable liquid, believed to be petrol, on the passengers and set them on fire, resulting in burns to nine people.

The accused is suspected to have escaped when the train slowed down after someone pulled the emergency chain.

Security strengthened at railway stations

After the attack on the Alappuzha-Kannur Express, security has been beefed up in all major railway stations in Kerala.

The RPF inspected the bags of passengers to check whether passengers were carrying any inflammable products in their bags.

A youth was detained at the Thrissur Railway Station for carrying two bottles of petrol.

Kottayam native Xavier Varghese, who was travelling on the Bengaluru-Kanyakumari Island Express, was detained by the police.

After interrogation, it was revealed that the youth coming from Bengaluru parcelled his vehicle from Kerala and was carrying the petrol having emptied the fuel tank.

(With PTI inputs)