Terror kingpin claims Express 187-lives series changed his heart — for a while

Suspected Indian Mujahideen kingpin Sadik Sheikh,arrested for his alleged role in a string of bomb blasts around the country since the 7/11 attacks on Mumbai’s local trains.....

Written by Sukanya Shetty | Mumbai | Published:February 28, 2009 3:00 am

Suspected Indian Mujahideen kingpin Sadik Sheikh,arrested for his alleged role in a string of bomb blasts around the country since the 7/11 attacks on Mumbai’s local trains,has claimed that he briefly had a change of heart after reading stories in The Indian Express of how relatives of the victims were battling grief. So much so that he avoided organising more attacks before he was dragged back into the terror net by his accomplices.

Mumbai-resident Sheikh,arrested here in September last year after the blasts in Delhi,made these claims during his interrogation by Gujarat police. The Indian Express has a copy of the video recording of Sheikh speaking in custody,during which he talks about his role in organising six blasts across the country in a span of five years as well as the shootout outside the American Center in Kolkata in 2002.

“Blast ke do din baad se newspaper main aisi stories padi jo meri mentality change kar di (I read such stories in newspapers two days after the blasts that these changed my heart),” Sheikh says in the 147-minute recording referring to the 7/11 attacks. The July 2006 blasts killed 188 people and injured more than 600 people in one of the worst terrorist attacks in the country.

“Kisi ke peechey koi dekh ne wale nahi the…koi akela kamaane wala tha,kisi ke parivaar se kai log mare gaye… (Many lives were lost…While the only earning member of a family was killed in one blast,another took away lives of several people from the same family),” Sheikh says.

“Main toh kahoonga ki bahut hi tabdili aai thi…usme Indian Express ka sabse badaa haat tha…Express main daily ek aisi kahani aati thi jisme ek person ki maut ki detail news di jati thi…(I would say there was a lot of change. And The Indian Express played a huge role in that. Express published detailed stories about one victim every day).”

“Ek mahila jiska beta mar gaya tha…woh bohut kharab ghatna thi…Pati se baat karne ke baad jab usse satisfaction hua aur baad mein pata chala uska beta mar gaya tha…(A woman frantically tried to reach her husband and was relieved after she found he was alive,only to discover that her son was on the same train and was killed).”

“Blast ke baad group ka hosla bad gaya tha…Atif bahut aggressive hua tha…usne kaha hume aur blast karna chahiye…7/11 ke pehle blasts 5-6 mahine ke antar main ho rahe the…lekin meri mentality change hone ke baad maine atif ko taalna shuru kiya…March tak taalte raha…is period main koi blast nahi hua…March tak taalne ke baad main Mumbai gaya. Jab woh log confirm ho gaye main involve nahi hona chahta hun,Riyaz mujhe job chodne ke liye kehta raha…(The group got emboldened after the blasts. Atif became very aggressive and would say we should explode more bombs. Before 7/11,blasts would happen every 5-6 months. But after I had a change of heart I started avoiding Atif. I did that until March and there were no blasts during this period. When they realized that I was not interested in getting involved,Riyaz (Bhatkal) pressured me to quit my job).”

Sheikh,who is said to be one of the IM’s key bomb-makers,then goes on to say that he succumbed to Bhatkal’s pressure and the group started planning for the Ahmedabad blasts in March 2007. Besides the Ahmedabad blasts last year and the 7/11 blasts,Sheikh also talks about his role in the Gorakhpur blast in May 2007,the blasts in courts in Uttar Pradesh in November 2007 and the Jaipur and Delhi blasts last year.

Sheikh’s lawyer said he would not believe the recording on the face of it. “It’s very essential to find out the circumstance under which his confession was recorded. On camera,only the accused person is seen. What happens on the other end and who is interrogating is never seen. In all possibility this confession too must have been taken under duress. Only after the police prove the evidence in court will we be able to know the truth about his confession,” said lawyer Prakash Shetty.

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