SILCHAR: A suspected coal mafia leader arrested from south Assam‘s Karimganj district on Friday was shot dead in a police encounter in a village in the nearby Hailakandi district late on Saturday night.

The coal mafia leader, Abdul Ahad Choudhury, was apprehended by Hailakandi (Lala) police from Achimganj in Karimganj district on Friday night in connection with a case related to the illegal transportation of coal to Barak Valley from Meghalaya. Abdul hailed from the Sutarkandi area in Karimganj.

Lala police station’s officer-in-charge A Basumatary said Abdul had escaped from police custody on Saturday morning after being taken to a hospital for a routine medical checkup. Police then tapped into its sources to enab him again and intensified vigil throughout the district. Later in the evening, police got the information that Abdul might travel to the Karimganj district via the Lakhinagar area in Lala. As per the tip-off, police laid a trap in that area, about 58km from Silchar town, and managed to find him at night. Seeing the police, Abdul opened fire and was killed after cops fired in retaliation, Basumatary said.

Hailakandi superintendent of police Gaurav Upadhyay told reporters on Sunday that the incident (encounter) took place around 1:30 am on Saturday when Abdul was riding as a pillion with another man on a two-wheeler, fired at police after seeing cops. In retaliation, police fired at him, and he was killed. The man, who was riding the two-wheeler, fled away. No police official was injured in the incident. Abdul was thereafter taken to SK Roy Hospital in Hailakandi, where he was declared brought dead, he said.

As per a source in police, a truck (AS-11 DC-6513) was seized by Lala police in Umednagar, Lala around 5:30 am on April 10 for ferrying coal illegally. A suo moto case (number – 110/22) under Sections 279 (rash driving or riding on a public way), 379 (theft), 411 (dishonestly receiving stolen property), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 (mischief causing damage to public property) of The Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act was registered by the police regarding the matter and an investigation started.

During the probe, police found that the truck had around 24.90 tons of coal and the truck was coming from Meghalaya. Police also found that Abdul Ahad Choudhury, who had multiple police cases against him for his suspected involvement in the illegal coal trade, had links with the coal-laden truck which was seized on April 10. Accordingly, he was arrested, the source said.

It may be mentioned Abdul came under the media spotlight for the first time in July 2018 after police arrested him for his suspected involvement in the illegal coal trade in Barak Valley and recovered a diary from his house. The diary had the names of some high-profile political leaders and police officials who were seemingly paid by Abdul every month for running the clandestine business of “black diamonds” without any trouble. A written statement of Rs 3.51 crore paid to 17 high-profile officers and leaders was found in this diary.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had in 2020 filed a case to probe the alleged illegal coal trade from Meghalaya to Bangladesh via Barak Valley, including the role of suspected coal mafia leader Abdul Ahad Choudhury. The latest status/details of the case have not been made public yet.

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