The Indian Express traces how Yasin Bhatkal,a class X dropout from a coastal Karnataka town,went on to become one of Indias most wanted and,until Thursday,elusive terrorists.
As security dossiers go,this one looks like it was put together a few years ago by a bored intelligence officer in a nondescript back office somewhere in Delhi. The document,which is in a table format,lists the name of the fugitive as Mohammed Ahmed Siddibapa alias Ahamed alias Yaseer. It says he was born on January 15,1983,studied up to Class X and also Islamic issues,is 5 ft 6,fair,clean-shaven,wears pant shirt and moves with a laptop.
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He is wanted for bomb blasts in Gujarat,Bangalore and Hyderabad. His associates are Riyaz,Iqbal,Sultan,Muyeed and Shabbir. He speaks Urdu,Kannada and Nawayati,a local dialect. He had a passport issued in Bangalore which was valid until June 18,2013. Present place of stay: Unknown. Bhatkal arrest: A wife who keeps to herself,a factory no one approaches
Police officers around the country,however,say they should not be faulted if they call this dossier a gross understatement. Siddibapa,who is more famous as Yasin Bhatkal,is for them the co-founder and operational commander of the Indian Mujahideen,its official bomb-maker,trained bomb expert and the mastermind of nearly a dozen bomb blasts across the country who has been named in almost every terror attack since 2007.
In terms of his importance on the list of Indias most wanted terrorists,he was up there with the most dreaded. And until Thursday,the most elusive.
Yasins journey into the world of terror is said to have started in the early years of the last decade. He had joined the Jamiya Islamiya in Bhatkal,his hometown in coastal Karnataka,and was allegedly attracted to jehadi ideology since his school days.
He,along with brothers Riyaz and Iqbal the three of who would go on to found the IM tried to attract Muslim youth towards their ideology before his family discovered his leanings and packed him him to Dubai in November 2005. His life in Dubai is a bit of a blur. Intelligence agencies claim he escaped from Dubai and was seen with al-Qaeda supporters in Abu Dhabi. They say he managed to return to India in 2007 and rejoined Riyaz and Iqbal in Mangalore and was trained in making nitrate bombs. His family claims he disappeared from Dubai in January 2007 and could not be traced.
Yasins progress from then until he became one of Indias most wanted terrorists is a story of travelling around the country to recruit youths and set up terror modules,procuring materials for bombs,making,supplying and planting them,taking refuge in remote areas,evading security agencies,even getting arrested once and being freed.
The attacks he allegedly planned and the bombs he made and planted during these years killed more than 250 people and maimed many more in Gujarat,Hyderabad,Jaipur,Delhi,Bangalore,Mumbai and Pune.
Although the IM came under the spotlight with a series of bomb blasts in 2007-08,it was not until late 2008 or early 2009 that security agencies found out about the existence of a man named Yasin. It was only suspected that a shadowy man going by the name of Shahrukh was a key IM operative.
It was Safdar Nagori,a SIMI leader said to be Yasins right-hand man,who blew Yasins cover. Nagori,who was interrogated by the Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch following the serial blasts there,is believed to have told them that Yasin was the master-planner of the Ahmedabad blasts.
Yasin had allegedly visited Gujarat along with his aide Asadullah before the serial blasts and met and hired 18 youths to execute the operation. The back-to-back blasts in Ahmedabad were so meticulous that their 21-site map also covered the trauma wards of the Ahmedabad civil hospital and LG Hospital. Abrar Sheikh,a strong link between all the IM modules in the country and an understudy of Nagori,is said to have told police that he attended training camps as instructed by Yasin,who also closely monitored the camps.
Pune resident Md Akbar Ismail Chaudhry,a key accused in the August 2007 Hyderabad twin blasts,had told the police that ahead of those blasts,he and an associate travelled to Bangalore and met Yasin. They were then taken to a farmhouse near Kopa in Chikmagalur in Karnataka,where Riyaz was present,and given training in the use of explosives and bomb materials.
Chaudhry told the police Yasin used a laptop to familiarise him and his associate with various explosives and trained them to create circuits and assemble timers. The trainees were shown videos of Iraq and other countries,Chaudhry said. After the training,Yasin asked the duo to return to Bangalore since a new batch of trainees was expected.
For a foot-soldier of terror who alleged personally planted bombs in some of the most crowded places in the country,Yasin seemed to live a charmed life.
Not only was he said to have been caught by CCTV cameras in Pune and Hyderabad when he was suspected to be on his way to plant bombs,he had very narrow escapes with the police. In 2008,he managed to give the police the slip when they delayed a raid on a hideout following raids in Mangalore. In November 2011,he evaded capture when his father-in-law Irshad Khan and his associates were picked up from Chennai and Delhi.
In December 2009,Yasin by then a key accused in the 2007 Hyderabad blasts and the September 2008 Delhi blasts was actually picked up by the Kolkata police in a theft case. However,he managed to walk out of Kolkatas Shakespeare Sarani police station on December 29,2009,having convinced officials that he was Bulla Mallik,26,son of Karthik Mallik,of Kolkata.
Yasin returned to being Shahrukh when he lived in Delhi for about six months in 2011 and even got married to Irshads 21-year-old daughter. Irshad and Yasin allegedly ran a small ordnance and weapons factory in a room in Meer Vihar in West Delhi where police found six magazines,several ounces of ammonium nitrate,live cartridges and chemical substances. Ironically,it was named Peace Engineering Works.
He is fair,good-looking,belongs to a good family. We will marry Zahida off to him, Irshad had told his wife Mehajani Khanum a month before making Yasin his son-in-law. But she had said she had her doubts.
He started living with us. He was a bit strange and never spoke much to my daughter,let alone me. He never gave my daughter his phone number. They would be gone for days,while my children and I would sit at home and wait for them, Khanum said.
That wait ended on Thursday,and Khanum said she was glad for the way it did.
9 attacks,272 deaths,2007-13
17 dead,64 injured,1 blast
56 dead,200 injured
July 26 & 27,2008
29 failed bombs
71 dead,184 injured,9 blasts
15 injured in 2 blasts
30 dead,5 blasts
12 killed,76 injured,1 suitcase bomb
Lumbini Park,Gokul Chat Bazar
42 dead,2 blasts
17 dead,2 blasts
Who’s who in the Indian Mujahideen
Amir Reza Khan
Said to be principal founder of Indian Mujahideen. His brother Asif Reza Khan was gunned down in a police encounter after which he allegedly set up the Asif Reza Commando Force and later IM
Present location: Pakistan
Recruited by Amir in early 2000. He hails from Bhatkal,Karnataka,where he studied engineering. He later moved to Mumbai in search of a job before being inducted in IM
Present location: Pakistan
Riyaz’s brother. Wanted in several cases of attacks across India. Along with his brother,he is believed to have recruited several youths
Present location: Pakistan
Coordinator for Indias IM operations,said to plan almost all major attacks. Bomb-maker had dropped out of school at Bhatkal. Allegedly set up several modules along with Riyaz and Iqbal Arrested
Mohsin Ismail Chaudhry
Pune resident is said to be an early recruit now in Pakistan,but still a talent-spotter who allegedly arranges logistics through contacts in Maharashtra. Wife and children still in Pune
Present location: Pakistan
Azamgarh doctor is an elder brother of Md Saif,arrested during the Batla House encounter. Said to be providing IM cadres documents with fake identities
Present location: UAE