Authorities on Friday questioned an alleged Indian underworld figure suspected of planning a deadly bombing that rocked Bombay more than a decade ago, police said. Abu Salem, who was arrested in Lisbon in September 2002, is a prime suspect in the 1993 Bombay stock exchange bombing that killed 257 people and wounded more than 1,100, as well as in a string of murder and extortion cases. He was extradited from Portugal to India on Thursday.
"Abu Salem will face charges of committing a terrorist act against the country, criminal conspiracy and supply of arms and ammunition," special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said Friday in Bombay. If convicted, Salem could face life in prison.
The Bombay bombing is believed to have been a revenge attack for the demolition of a 16th century mosque in northern India by Hindu nationalists, an incident that sparked rioting in which at least 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed.
Salem is alleged to have planned the bombings with another prominent figure in Bombay's underworld, Dawood Ibrahim, who U.S. officials say has links to al-Qaida. Ibrahim now reportedly lives in Pakistan, though officials in that country deny he is there.
Salem had been wanted for more than a decade and was located in Portugal in 2002, though it's not clear when he fled India. He says he left his homeland to elude other Indian mafia groups who were chasing him over unpaid debts.
Indian authorities said Friday that Salem could provide information on Dawood and other fugitives accused of terrorism.
"Police have evidence of a number of crimes against Abu Salem, that he worked with Ibrahim in Dubai and Pakistan," said Nikam. "Now that he is in India and in custody, police can trace his network of associates all over the country."
Police also suspect Salem in several high-profile killings, including the murder of Bollywood music industry czar Gulshan Kumar, attacks on Hindi film personalities, and extortion, according to the AP.
Salem and his second wife, Monica Bedi, a former Bollywood actress, were flown to India on Thursday for questioning by the country's Central Bureau of Investigation, said a police official, who asked not to be identified as is the custom in India.
Salem had fought his extradition from Portugal, arguing he would not get a fair trial in India, where he said his life would be in danger.