THE EXPLOSIVES that were used in the July 2011 Mumbai triple blasts arrived at a safehouse in the city a week before the attack, Zainulabdeen alias Zahid Sheikh alias Jainul, an alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) arrested on Tuesday, has told interrogators, according to police sources.
Zainulabdeen, arrested by the Maharashtra ATS after landing at Mumbai airport, is a key missing member of a south India-based explosives supply chain module of the IM which carried out a series of bomb blasts around India between 2006 and 2013, killing over 300 people. He had been detained in October 2015 in Saudi Arabia and arrived in India Tuesday.
“During the interrogation, Zainulabdeen revealed that the explosives collected by his co-accused Waqas, an alleged Pakistani national from Mangaluru, reached the south Mumbai safehouse — Habib Manzil in Byculla — a week before the blast. At the safehouse, Yasin Bhatkal, who had expertise in assembling IEDs, prepared the bombs using ammonium nitrate and gelatin sticks. The IEDs were laced with RDX to increase intensity,” an official told The Indian Express.
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According to police sources, Zainulabdeen also said that the explosives were procured from quarries located in Kundapur, a coastal town in Karnataka, about 91 km from Mangaluru.
“On the instructions of IM co-founder Riyaz Bhatkal, another co-accused, Syed Ismail Afaque, handed over the explosives to Zainulabdeen in Kundapur. He asked Zainulabdeen to deliver it to a contact of Yasin Bhatkal at Mangaluru. Waqas, who was camping with Yasin at the south Mumbai safehouse, travelled to Mangaluru and took the delivery from Zainulabdeen,” said the officer.
On July 13, 2011, between 6.54 pm and 7.06 pm, three bombs went off in a coordinated manner at Zaveri Bazaar, Opera House and Dadar, killing 27 people and injuring over 120. The Maharashtra ATS took over the investigations and arrested 12 alleged IM members, including the prime accused Yasin Bhatkal. Zainulabdeen, against whom a Red Corner Notice had been issued, is the twelfth arrest in the case. Seven other accused are still at large.
Other than the July 2011 triple blasts, Zainulabdeen also allegedly acted as a courier and supplied explosives for the 2013 Hyderabad blast and the 2010 German Bakery blast in Pune.
Apart from officials of the Maharashtra ATS, Zainulabdeen is being interrogated by officials from the Intelligence Bureau and the National Investigation Agency, who are camping at the state counter-terrorism agency’s Kalachowki unit.
“Other than the blast probe, Zainulabdeen could be able to throw light on the different factions in the IM since some of its member have defected and joined the Islamic State,” said an official.
“The IM split on the issue of money, with defectors claiming they were paid a paltry sum and the Bhatkal brothers, Riyaz and Iqbal, kept the larger chunk for themselves. In August 2014, former IM member Sultan Armar, who also comes from Bhatkal, formed the Ansar ul Tawhid,” the official explained.
After his death in an airstrike in Syria, Sultan’s brother Shafi alias Yusuf is suspected to have taken control of the outfit. In 2014, the outfit had promised to recruit Indians in its struggle.