2005 Ayodhya Terror Attack: 4 Get Life Imprisonment, 1 Acquitted

On Tuesday, 18 June, a special court in Allahabad pronounced its verdict in the 2005 Ayodhya attack case. Four of the accused have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, while one of them has been acquitted.

On 5 July 2005, a terrorist conducted a suicide bombing to breach the security cordon around the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi site, and five terrorists subsequently attempted to attack the ‘Sita Rasoi’ area there.

According to The Indian Express, all five terrorists were gunned down by CRPF personnel during an hour-long encounter, while two civilians, Ramesh Pandey and Shanti Devi, were also killed in the attack. Seven CRPF jawans were injured, with three suffering serious injuries.

Special judge Dinesh Chand has been hearing the case against five men who were accused of engaging in a conspiracy to carry out the attack, as well as providing logistic and material assistance to the terrorists who actually carried it out. The attackers were originally suspected to belong to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, but were later alleged to be Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) operatives.

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The five men on trial were one Dr Irfan (from Saharanpur in UP) along with four residents of Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir: Ashiq Iqbal alias Farooque, Shakeel Ahmed, Mohammad Naseem and Mohammad Aziz.

The trial of the accused took place inside Naini jail, where they have been lodged. The prosecution examined 63 prosecution witnesses according to the District Government Counsel for Allahabad, Gulab Chand Agrihari. The key witness for the prosecution was Rehan Alam Ansari, who had been hired as a driver by the six terrorists – he was not aware of the plot to attack the site – who was able to describe the series of events to the police.

According to India Today, the attackers crossed into India through Nepal, and pretended to be Hindu pilgrims going to visit the birthplace of Lord Ram. Ansari told the police that the terrorists visited a makeshift Ram temple in Ayodhya and offered prayers there before beginning the attack. He was made to get out of the vehicle, a Tata Sumo, with five of the terrorists while the sixth drove the car into a barricade and blew himself up.

Out of the men on trial, Iqbal is alleged to have procured the Tata Sumo used in the attack, modified it to hide the assault rifles and grenades used in the attack, and also acquired the weapons.

In 2006, the accused had had difficulties securing a lawyer, as the Faizabad Bar Association had appealed to local advocates to not represent them, according to the Hindustan Times.

In 2007, it was reported that the alleged mastermind of the attack, JeM divisional commander Saifullah Qari, was shot dead in an encounter by a joint team of the Delhi and Jammu police.

Also Read: Ayodhya Land Dispute: SC Grants Mediation Panel Time Till 15 Aug

(With inputs from The Indian Express, Hindustan Times, India Today)

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