ATS seizes cache of firearms day after arrests of 3 suspects

MUMBAI, Aug 11: The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) today claimed to have recovered a cache of country-made firearms, following the arrest of three men, one of them belonging to a right-wing group, who were allegedly planning to carry out blasts at various places in the state.

The ATS has also questioned at least 16 people for alleged links to Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar and Sudhanva Gondhalekar, who were arrested yesterday, an official said.

The ATS had seized a large quantity of explosive materials from Raut’s place. Further raids were conducted in Pune today based on the information provided by Gondhalekar, the ATS official said.

It led to the seizure of 11 country-made pistols with magazines, an airgun, ten pistol barrels, six pistol magazines, six partially-made pistol bodies, three partially made magazines and several parts of firearms, he said.

Besides, materials used to make bombs, a chopper, six number plates of vehicles, CDs, pen drives, hard discs and handbooks and other literuatre on bomb-making were also found.

The investigators suspect that materials seized were to be used for making IED.

According to the ATS, Gondhalekar was the leader of the gang.

With the recovery of weapons, the ATS added the Arms Act sections to the FIR registered against Raut and the two other under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Explosives Act, he said.

The ATS had arrested Raut and Sharad Kalaskar from Nallasopara near Mumbai and Gondhalekar from Pune. Following raids at Raut’s residence and shop, the ATS had claimed to have seized a huge quantity of explosives, including 20 crude bombs and bomb circuit drawings.

ATS chief Atulchandra Kulkarni had said they would probe if the arrested men had any connection with the killings of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare and journalist Gauri Lankesh.

The ATS questioned 16 people from Nallasopara, Pune, Satara, Solapur and elsewhere in the state for suspected links to the three men, police had said.

Police were also probing if the arrested men were part of social media groups of like-minded people by examining their mobile phones.

Raut allegedly runs a little-known, pro-cow protection outfit. His purported social media account mentioned he was associated with the right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha, but the group yesterday denied he was its member.

A court in Mumbai yesterday remanded the three men in ATS custody till August 18. (PTI)