Alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Asadullah Akhtar alias Tabrez has told the Maharashtra ATS that the group wanted to target the Mumbai Indians IPL team bus on the way from the Oberoi hotel to Wankhede stadium in south Mumbai, sources have told The Indian Express.
Separately, top sources in Bangalore said that Yasin Bhatkal, the alleged mastermind of IM attacks who was arrested along with Akhtar last August, has told interrogators that a primary reason for targeting the Chinnaswamy stadium in April 2010 was India’s refusal to allow Pakistani cricketers to participate in that year’s IPL.
Bhatkal was interrogated by the Bangalore Police in connection with the April 17, 2010 attack. Two of five bombs planted around the stadium exploded as crowds gathered for a late afternoon match between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore. Five people were injured.
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Bhatkal is learnt to have told interrogators that IM founders Riyaz Bhatkal and Iqbal Bhatkal asked him, during Internet chats, to target the IPL.
ATS officers in Mumbai said Akhtar had told them of an IM plan to detonate a car bomb parked on the route from the Oberoi in Nariman Point to the Wankhede in Churchgate. The stadium is barely 2 km from the hotel.
“Yasin Bhatkal, Asadullah Akhtar and two others who carried out the 13/7 Mumbai blasts were aware that the team was staying at Oberoi hotel, and had recceed the route that the team bus took from the hotel to Wankhede stadium for matches and practice. They intended to detonate a bomb-laden car parked on the route from a remote location, but the plan failed to materialise,” an ATS officer said.
The officer that said Waqas Ibrahim Saad, a Pakistani wanted for the 13/7 triple blasts, had bought a ticket and entered Wankhede on April 20, 2011 during a Mumbai Indians-Pune Warriors game. “Waqas went in and had a look around. He left after assessing that security arrangements at the stadium were tight,” the officer said.
“Subsequently, during the Mumbai Indians-Chennai Super Kings match on April 22, 2011, Waqas and Asadullah went to Wankhede to see the security arrangements outside the stadium, but ultimately abandoned any plans they had to target the stadium,” the officer added.
Investigations into the Chinnaswamy attack led to the IM after the Delhi Police in November 2011 arrested Qateel Siddiqui, Gayur Jamali and Aftab Alam alias Farook, who admitted they were involved in the bombing.
Bangalore Police sources said Bhatkal, who was in custody in Karnataka from January 17 to February 4, had corroborated a statement given to police by Salman alias Chhotu, an alleged IM operative who was arrested by the Delhi Police in 2010.
Salman had claimed to have been privy to IM plans after having attended meetings of the group in Sharjah, the UAE and Karachi in 2009. After his arrest, he told interrogators that the IPL was in the IM’s crosshairs.