A day after the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) secured the custody of Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder and key bomber Yasin Bhatkal, the agency identified him as having extensively surveyed police establishments and religious institutions in south Mumbai, apart from Juhu Beach and a branch of the fast-food chain McDonald’s located at the Andheri (West) railway station, for the 13/7 serial blasts.
The police said Bhatkal also confessed to have initially planned to plant an explosive under a stationary police van at Dadar flower market. On July 13, 2011, however, the van moved away just as Bhatkal and his co-conspirator Tehnseen Akhtar walked towards it, said ATS officers.
The duo then planted the explosive in a garbage bin in the flower market. Four powerful explosions, two in Dadar, one in Zaveri Bazaar and another in Opera House, had killed 27 people on the evening of July 13.
Bhatkal, who was arrested by NIA in September 2013, was handed over to the ATS on February 6 this week after the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA) court accepted its plea.
Along with Asadullah Akhtar, Tabrez, Tehseen Akhtar Shaikh, Waqas and Nadeem Akhtar Shaikh, Yasin did an extensive recce of the city, beginning February 2011, said Rakesh Maria, Additional Director General, ATS. Tabrez, Waqas and Tehseen are still at large.
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“In addition to places where they planted the explosives, they also recceed Colaba Market, because of the number of foreign tourists it attracts, Mumbadevi Temple, Gol Deo Temple, and the offices of the director general of police, commissioner of police and ATS,” said Maria.
Most of the places that were visited have been targets of extremist groups and terror outfits.
Colaba Market was extensively recceed by the perpetrators of the 26/11 terror attack, while earlier too, IM has claimed responsibility in tracking the movement of people entering police establishments.
“They also recceed Dadar Tram Terminus, the McDonald’s outlet at Andheri (West) station, Juhu Beach and Jogeshwari Railway Station. In the end, it was about choosing the easiest places. They recceed each of these locations and their final targets at least twice before the blasts. Different locations were assigned to different men, but Bhatkal went on each recce,” said Maria.
On the day of the blasts, eight policemen inside a police van parked at the Dadar flower market had a close escape after they unwittingly moved away just as Bhatkal and Tehseen approached them.
“During the recces, they always saw a police van parked there. The original plan was to place a bomb under it. That day, Tehseen arrived 35-40 minutes late and Bhatkal was waiting for him. After he came, they started to walk towards the vehicle, when the van moved. We don’t know if the officers in the van received a call. But, our men were saved,” said Maria.
He also said the plotters procured the explosives from Mangalore a week before the blasts. The ATS had identified the shops from where they purchased nine mm volt batteries, Casio clocks, soldering machines, transistors, and a bow and arrow to complete the circuit.
“Around six days before the blasts, they purchased four pressure cookers from two shops in Pydhonie and Ghatkopar. We have identified both of them,” said Maria. After the blasts, Bhatkal, Waqas and Tabrez returned to Habib Mansion in Nagpada, while Tehseen lived elsewhere, he said.
Bhatkal is wanted in over 40 terror cases and will be interrogated by the ATS on the IM’s role in terror blasts in the state.