Six months after Mumbai was rocked by three coordinated blasts leaving 27 dead,the Maharashtra police today claimed to have made a breakthrough with the arrest of two alleged Indian Mujahideen operatives.
But the mastermind and planters of the bombs are still at large.
Naqi Ahmed Wasi Ahmed Sheikh and Nadeem Akhtar Ashfaq Sheikh,originally from Bihar’s Darbhanga district,were arrested even as a manhunt continues for top IM leader Yasin Bhatkal.
“Naqi Ahmed Wasi Ahmed Sheikh,22 and Nadeem Akhtar Ashfaq Sheikh,23,who are already in police custody in connection with a forgery case,have been arrested today in the blasts case,” Anti-Terror Squad chief Rakesh Maria told reporters.
Naqi and Nadeem,residents of Madanpura and Antop Hill areas in the city,were earlier arrested in connection with a case relating to procurement of SIM cards using fake documents. Six others including one Haroon Rashid Naik from Mumbra near Mumbai,whose remand has been sought,have also been held in connection with the fraudulent procurement of SIM cards over some time since August 2011,Maria said.
“After Haroon’s remand in granted,he will be arrested in the blasts case,” Maria said,adding help extended by the underworld in commission of the crime had also emerged. He said around Rs 10 lakh received through Hawala channels was used in the crime but did not disclose the source from where the money came lest it hamper investigations.
Maintaining that Naqi was indoctrinated by Bhatkal,Maria said it was he who helped the IM mastermind to rent the third floor apartment in Habib Building at Byculla last year. Two-three apartments were rejected before finalising the Habib building quarters and Naqi paid for it,he said.
Maria rubbished claims by Naqi’s relatives that he was innocent,saying he had been in touch with Bhatkal since 2008 and even visited his place in Bihar and that he was fully aware of the latter’s antecedents. “We have evidence to corroborate this,” Maria said.
Naqi and Nadeem were produced before a court which remanded them in ATS custody till February 2.
The ATS sought their custody saying they wanted to find out where the explosives for the blast came.
“The explosives were brought to Mumbai from Delhi by train but how they reached the national capital and from where are yet to be ascertained,” said an ATS officer.
The third accused Haroon will be produced in court tomorrow.
“The accused have been charged under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act,Explosives Act,and sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC),” said an ATS officer. Outside the court,Naqi’s uncle Manzar said he had faith in the judiciary and that his nephew would be proved innocent.
Maria said after the accused started staying in the rented apartment,two still wanted along with Naqi enrolled in a gym in south Mumbai and also recced the sites to be targeted.
Though Maria refused to give out the names of the two and described them only as ‘A’ and ‘B’ as revealing those could compromise the investigation,there have been reports in the media that they could be from Pakistan.
According to ATS sources,though Bhatkal and the other two whose names were withheld appeared to be the only wanted accused so far,their numbers could go up as the probe progresses.
Subsequently,Maria said Nadeem was called to Delhi by Bhatkal and handed over a packet containing the explosive and detonators used in the blast. “The explosives were brought by train,” Maria added.
As per Bhatkal’s instructions,Naqi and Nadeem had stolen two Activa scooters a day before the blasts and explosives are fitted in them for explosions in Zaveri Bazaar and Opera House,Additional Police Commissioner Sukhvinder Singh said.
The ATS has also released a photograph of Bhatkal and appealed to people to alert the police if they have any information on the wanted person.
Naqi and Nadeem had also stolen two motorcycles in August and October last year for “future use” which have been recovered from Bihar. Duplicate keys of these two vehicles and the helmet of the original owner of one of the scooters have also been recovered,Maria said.
He said a “whole lot of” articles including a computer and clothes of those who stayed in the Byculla room have been seized for forensic examination.
“We have asked for forensic analysis of the room as the IEDs used for the blasts,we believe,were assembled in the room. DNA samples have also been taken,” he said.
The accused ‘A’ and ‘B’ had planted bombs at Zaveri Bazaar and Opera House,Maria said but did not mention as to who planted the bomb at Dadar.
The ATS chief said Naqi was given Rs 1.5 lakh by Bhatkal for the crime.
Maria said the targets were carefully chosen as they were important business districts of the metropolis.
Maria trashed media reports that lack of coordination between the Delhi police and the Maharashtra ATS had helped Bhatkal escape.
“Bhatkal was in the city in Mumbai June and for some time in July. He left on July 13 and did not come back,” he said.
The ATS chief also junked reports about any tiff with the Delhi police in carrying out the probe,saying investigators from Mumbai were getting all cooperation from their Delhi counterparts.
“Competition is good and it should be there. Which police would not want to crack the case,but there is no rivalry,” he said.