It was around November 2009, more than a year after the Batla House encounter, that the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) reportedly received a tip-off that Shahzad Ahmad, alias Pappu, was hiding in his house in Khalispur village, in Billariaganj area of Azamgarh.
But the ATS team was told to carry out a raid only if they were absolutely certain about his presence, since the naming of Azamgarh youth in Indian Mujahideen (IM) modules had become a touchy political issue.
According to sources, the ATS personnel made frequent rounds of the area, first posing as health workers administering polio drops, and later as revenue department workers. But they were not able to gather much information.
In January 2010, some ATS men, posing as government mechanics, visited the area on the pretext of installing hand-pumps. They even demanded a “bribe” for installing a hand-pump at Shahzad’s house. A senior ATS official, posing as the head of the mechanics, visited Shahzad’s house to collect the “bribe”. He spotted Shahzad inside. On January 31, 2010, the ATS team reportedly went to Shahzad’s house at around 7 pm, saying they wanted to keep their tools there for starting work the next morning. The team got lucky, as Shahzad himself walked to the door to take the tools. The ATS personnel grabbed him before he could raise an alarm.
Shahzad’s arrest was announced the next morning, after the ATS squad brought him to Lucknow. He was handed over to the Delhi Police the same day. The Azamgarh police later picked up his laptop and other belongings from the family.
Shahzad’s father, Siraj Ahmed, moved to Saudi Arabia about two decades back. His mother, grandfather Niyaz Ahmed, sisters Henna, Shifa and Sumbal, and brother Shahab live in Azamgarh. The family also has a house in Jalandhari, in the Sadar area of Azamgarh.
Shahzad completed his schooling from Jyoti Niketan School of Azamgarh, after which he sought admission for a computer course at Jamia Milia University in Delhi.