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Response to Terror

Deadly Shooting in Calcutta May Be Linked to Al Qaeda

Terrorism: New Delhi blames kidnapping ring for assault at U.S. center. Police suspect funds were sent to Mohamed Atta.

January 23, 2002|PAUL WATSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He was referring to Calcutta shoe tycoon Partha Roy Burman, who was abducted last summer and held captive near India's border with Bangladesh, which runs the length of West Bengal state.

The kidnappers freed Burman after 15 days for a reported ransom of about $830,000. Indian police investigators suspect that some of the money eventually reached Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian who is believed to have led the terrorists who flew planes into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

Police believe a man named Aftab Ansari, an alias for Aftab Malik, now runs the kidnapping operation from Dubai, India Today, the country's leading weekly newsmagazine, reported earlier this month. A senior Calcutta police investigator, speaking on condition he not be named due the sensitivity of his work, confirmed the report.

A Pakistani militant named Ahmad Sayed Omar Sheikh wired $100,000 of the ransom money, which he received from Ansari in Dubai, to one of Atta's bank accounts, India Today reported.

The magazine said Indian investigators "have been able to decode intercepted e-mails" that point to the link between Khan, who led the kidnapping ring, and Ansari in Dubai.

Sheikh is one of three Pakistani militants that India released from prison to free passengers of an Indian Airlines jet hijacked from Katmandu, Nepal, to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in December 1999.

The FBI opened a file on the hijacking because a U.S. citizen was on board.

FBI Director Mueller said Tuesday that Indian authorities had provided leads in the search for Al Qaeda members and cells, based on arrests in India.

Mueller travels next to Pakistan, whose government wants to explore possible ways to cooperate against terrorism, he said.

Times staff writer Paul Richter in Washington contributed to this report.

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