The presence of mind shown by a man in Chennai in taking the contact number of two men who bought his motorcycle helped Bangalore and Tamil Nadu police identify Panna Ismail,Police Fakruddin and Bilal Mallik the three men arrested in Andhra Pradesh Saturday as executors of the April 17,2013,bombing outside the Malleswaram office of the BJP in Bangalore.
The motorcycle,TVS Suzuki Max 100 R,was used to plant the bomb. The police used the phone number provided by its owner to zero in on the suspects belonging to the Al Ummah outfit in Tamil Nadu and carried out the first arrests within six days of the blast.
R Prakash of New Perungalathur near Chennai sold the motorcycle a few days before the blast that killed 16 bystanders.
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Documents placed before the Karnataka high court and a magistrate court in Bangalore over the past six months reveal city police analysed the site of the 10.30 am blast with forensic experts and identified a blue TVS Suzuki Max 100 R with the registration TN 22 R 3729 (later found fake) as the vehicle on which the bomb was placed in a parking lot a few metres from the BJP office.
Grainy footage from a CCTV camera at a Malleswaram house opposite the parking lot showed a partially bald man later identified as Panna Ismail parking the motorcycle and rushing away some six minutes before the bomb exploded.
From the chassis number of the motorcycle,1108F001568,and engine number,1108M05647,manufacturer TVS Motors directed the police to its first owner. By night,they were at the doorstep of R Prakash.
Prakash told the police he sold the bike on April 15 to Anwar Basha and M Raza,who came through Vellore auto consultant Gopi,for Rs 7,300.
The buyers were initially reluctant to provide a contact number but Prakash insisted and got 7708484043.
The police found that the number was registered in the name of Tirunelveli resident Maheshwaran Pillai,whose son Rajesh Nair had lost his phone on February 12,2013.
A special technical intelligence unit of the Bangalore police then began analysing the SIM card and the IMEI signature,356675000594410,of the phone.
They found that a second SIM card was used on a few occasions and its number,9626489934,belonged to Basheer of Palayamkottai in Tirunelveli,Tamil Nadu.
Bashir told the police he got the phone and the SIM card from Wahid of Melapalayam and gave the SIM card to Panna Ismail on the directions of Kichan Bukhari,a member of the proscribed Tamil Nadu terror outfit Al Ummah involved in the 1998 Coimbatore blasts that killed 58 people.
With the knowledge that the SIM was used to buy a bike for the blast,Basheer and Bukhari were arrested on April 23.
Ismail was paid Rs 50,000 by Bukhari for the bombing operation. Police Fakruddin and Bilal Mallik,the former Al Ummah members arrested Saturday,used the names Anwar Basha and M Raza to buy the motorcycle in Chennai. Fakruddin is allegedly an explosives expert.
The police are now likely to probe the internal and external links of this group that returned to terror in 2011 after a lull of nearly 13 years following the Coimbatore blasts.
If the seller of the motorcycle had not insisted on a contact number,the case may have remained undetected. It was his presence of mind that helped crack the case, a senior police officer said.
Police suspect the said phone was deliberately used to buy the bike since its owner is connected to some right-wing Hindutva groups.
Ismail,Fakruddin and Mallik are,according to the Tamil Nadu police,also responsible for the July 2013 killing of two right-wing leaders in that state,including a senior BJP functionary.