Karnataka kingpin plotted Varanasi blasts,say UP Police

Riyaz Bhatkal of Karnataka,who has emerged as the common link in the serial blasts that rocked Jaipur,Ahmedabad,Bangalore,Delhi and Hyderabad,also allegedly had a hand in the Varanasi blasts...

Written by Manish Sahu | Lucknow | Published: February 18, 2009 1:58:43 am

Riyaz Bhatkal of Karnataka,who has emerged as the common link in the serial blasts that rocked Jaipur,Ahmedabad,Bangalore,Delhi and Hyderabad,also allegedly had a hand in the Varanasi blasts,including the one at Sankatmochan temple,which took place on March 7,2006.

Mohammad Saif,an alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) member whom the Varanasi Police has been questioning for the last five days,has reportedly disclosed that Bhatkal provided the explosives used in the Varanasi blasts.

Saif is also said to have disclosed that Atif Amin,who was gunned down in the Batla House encounter on September 19,had brought the explosive from Bhatkal in Karnataka eight days before the blasts. Atif allegedly planned and carried out the blasts in Varanasi with the help of other IM members.

Saif was arrested from Batla House after the encounter. A team from the Varanasi police had gone to Delhi and questioned him last month.

Saif had then disclosed that the Varanasi blasts were carried out by the IM. The Varanasi police then brought him from Delhi on a five-day remand which ended today.

According to Additional SP of Varanasi DK Chowdhary,Saif has confessed having met Riyaz Bhatkal twice in Bangalore and Gujarat.

Saif reportedly told his interrogators that three days before the Varanasi blasts,Atif,he and two other IM activists — Shadab and Junaid — went to Varanasi by bus and conducted a recce of several places. Atif allegedly chose three places where the bombs had to be planted.

A day before the blast,Atif and other IM members bought pressure cookers in Azamgarh. Atif and Chota Sajid,who also died in the Batla House encounter,allegedly packed explosives in the pressure cookers at a place which Saif claims he did not know. The devices were completed,only the batteries were not fitted,Saif told the police.

On the morning of March 7 last year,five IM members,including Atif and Saif,went to Varanasi by bus,carrying the explosive devices.

Two unidentified men joined them in Varanasi. They fitted the batteries in the devices,planted these at the selected places and returned to Azamgarh the same evening.

As many as 21 persons were killed in the Varanasi blasts that took place at Sankatmochan Mandir and the Varanasi Cantt Railway Station. A third bomb,which was planted in Godaulia locality,did not explode.

Saif has allegedly said that the bomb at Sankatmochan Mandir was planted by Mirza Shadab Beg,Asadullah Akhtar alias Asadullah Khan and an unidentified man,while the one at the railway station was planted by Ariz Khan alias Junaid and an unidentified man. Atif and Saif planted the bomb at Godaulia which did not explode.

Like Atif and Saif,Shadab Beg,Asadullah Akhtar and Ariz Khan also belong to Azamgarh and are presently absconding. The Delhi Police has announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh on each of these three men.

The police had earlier arrested alleged Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami activist Walliullah and filed a charge-sheet against him in the Varanasi blasts case.

Investigating officer Ashutosh Mishra said,“We are cross-checking details collected from Saif.”

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