Probe has revealed that Mohammed Zahid Hossain (57), an alleged explosive dealer and smuggler whom the Special Task Force (STF) of the Kolkata police arrested on Wednesday, is a close aide of top Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Yasin Bhatkal and might have worked for him for the German Bakery blast of 2010 that killed 17 people.
The STF team of the Kolkata police arrested Hossain, a Bangladeshi national, from a railway station in central Kolkata. Investigators from Maharashtra believe that the information from Hossain may lead them to one Ibrahim, who is supposed to have supplied explosives to the conspirators of the German Bakery blast.
During the custody hearing of Yasin Bhatkal, Maharashtra ATS had submitted before a Pune court that they were on the trail of Ibrahim for his involvement as a supplier of RDX. Yasin was arrested by Indian agencies in August last year, from the India-Nepal border. In March, the Maharashtra ATS got his custody in the bakery blast case.
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According to STF sources, Hossain confessed that he was in constant contact with Yasin Bhatkal before the latter was arrested. The police said the two must have worked together in the bakery explosion. “We are verifying his links with the terror attacks in the country. The German Bakery case is one of them. We are also speaking to our counterparts in Maharashtra and in the National Investigation Agency. But, we have enough evidence to establish his links with IM operatives, including Yasin Bhatkal,” said a senior STF official.
Hossain was said to be a key operative in the terror group. Hossain had, on several occasions, arranged funds for IM from Bangladesh and he was a fake Indian currency notes (FICN) smuggler. He was trying to build contacts with the sleeper cells of IM in Bengal and Bihar, said police sources. NIA is likely to take Hossain into custody after the custody period for Kolkata police expires.
The police have recovered 30 cartridges of sophisticated weapon, detonators and some explosive material from him. Apart from this, Rs 1.5 lakh (in Indian currency), a diary and some SIM cards were also seized from his possession. “One of the SIM cards has contact details of SIMI and IM operatives. It has been learnt that Hossain has been supplying explosives to the IM for a long time. This time he was trying to supply arms, ammunition and explosives to the operatives, making Kolkata a transit point,” the police said.
In July, 2013, STF had arrested IM operative Anwar Hussain Mallik, a resident of Chapra, Nadia district. Anwar was passing Kolkata when he was arrested by the STF. The police seized gelatine sticks, a detonator and around Rs 2 lakh in FICN. During interrogation, Anwar told the police that he was asked by Zahid Hossain to carry the consignment. Since then, STF started tracking Hossain. According to a senior STF official, Zahid is in constant touch with Iqbal Bhatkal, brother of Yasin Bhatkal. During interrogation, Anwar revealed that he met Yasin in 2009 in Kolkata, when he was handed over a bag of explosives, sources said, adding that Zahid had links with another FICN racketeer of Pakistan.
Fifty seven-year-old Hossain is notorious in Bangladesh as a alleged FICN racketeer. STF has slapped charges of criminal conspiracy and arms dealing against him. He has also been booked under the Foreigners’ Act. He was produced before Bankshall court in Kolkata on Thursday and remanded in police custody till July 16.