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Man held over 'bid to ram train'

(The following article was posted on the Gulf Times website on August 25.)

KARACHI, Pakistan -- A man stole a railway engine in Karachi and tried to drive it into a passenger train in an attempted terror attack, police said yesterday.

The man drove the locomotive at full speed for 35km before officials managed to derail it and avert a possible disaster late on Tuesday, railway police official Irshad Beg said.

Police identified the man as Madan Lal, who is in his 50s.

Senior Railways police officer Malik Mohamed Afzal said Lal appeared to be mentally unstable.

Authorities initially thought he was an Indian but later Lal said he was a Pakistani Hindu from the southern province of Sindh.

"He had given his address in Hyderabad but we have still found no documents on him confirming if he is a Pakistani or an Indian," Afzal said.

"We suspect that he stole the engine and drove it on the track to cause a terrorist attack," Beg said.

Lal's apparent target was a regular passenger service that was on the same track before it was diverted, he added. Two Pakistani men, a driver and a fireman, were also arrested for negligence.

Lal said in custody that he was a Pakistani and stole the engine just to have a ride on the track. He refused to answer most questions.

Beg said the suspect would be produced before a local court and a thorough medical examination may be conducted to determine his mental health.

Railway authorities were yesterday trying to shift the damaged engine from where it came to rest, close to a down-at-heel area used by homeless people for sleeping.

"We are trying to get out charpoys (light wood and cane beds) and other things which were crushed by the engine," said Mohamed Ameen, a veteran engineer driver supervising the track clearance.

"The engine could have crushed many people under its wheels if they had not woke up in time and run," he said.

Officials said there was minor damage to the train's wheels and bogeys.

Ameen said the man arrested over the incident must have had prior knowledge of train driving.

"It takes 20 years to be a qualified engine driver and the way he drove and controlled the engine shows he had a good command of its operation.

Friday, August 25, 2006

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