The bomb planter
From 1972 to 1984,Syed Mohammed Hanif Abdul Rehman (46) was a catering assistant in Saudi Arabia. He lost his job,returned to Mumbai in 2000 and drove an auto. He went to Dubai the same year,worked as an electrician and met alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives. He stayed with six Pakistanis: Shafakat,Aabid,Khadil,Samiullah,Bilal and Rehan.
After he returned to Mumbai,he again became an auto driver. He lived with his wife and three children at Chimanpada,Andheri(E),but did not have many friends locally. After his arrest,he took up scriptwriting and story-writing at Arthur Road Jail.
His confession was recorded on September 26,2003,but he later retracted it. It says Hanif and two Indians,Nasir Ahmed and Jahid,became friends and decided to take revenge for the Gujarat riots after being promised logistical support by Pakistanis. Their targets were meant to be buses and trains. The confession said Nasir was the key conspirator with direct instructions from Pakistan; he was trained in assembling explosives laden with RDX. It says that on August 16,2003,the final plan was hatched to target Gateway of India and Mumbadevi Temple. Nasir,who was gunned down,allegedly said,The Gateway of India is Mumbais pride and many foreign tourists visit it daily. At Mumbadevi,lots of people of the Gujarati community assemble,so they will be taught a lesson.
Assertive yet obedient
Now at Byculla Jail,Fahmida Hanif Syed (46) stands 6 feet tall. She is aggressive generally but would obediently obey whatever husband Hanif said. The charges against her include planting bombs,on his orders,at Seepz (unexploded),bus no 340 and outside the Ghatkopar railway station. She and her children accompanied Hanif to the Gateway,apparently because no one would suspect a woman and children.
In jail,got close to convict Rubina Siraz Sayyed,alias Heroine,alleged to be the girlfriend of Chhota Shakeel. The two once roughed up Zaheera,the witness who turned hostile in the Best Bakery case.
In her confession on September 25,2003,she said,Nasir had told me to go along with my daughter as it would look as if a family had come and it would not raise suspicions.
Ashrat Ansari (32) was a zari worker at his one small unit at Juhu Galli. Third of four brothers,he dropped out of a BMC school in class IX and joined the family business.
In jail,he was very silent and reserved. Before the trial ended,he also contested the BMC elections as an independent from K-west ward,in 2007.
A confession recorded on September 15,2003,which he later retracted,said that in 2002 he was in Surat when the Godhra train fire and riots took place. Then he read about political leaders instigating people in Gujarat. The confession said that after he returned to Mumbai,he met his childhood friend,now an approver,and teamed up with Nasir to hatch the conspiracy for the blast. It said Ashrat also hired men from Juhu Galli,headed towards Mumbadevi temple but left his taxi with the bomb at Zaveri Bazaar,for want of parking space outside the temple. He told the driver to wait and left.
The approvers statement in August 2005 helped clinch the case for the prosecution. A labourer in Dubai,he said he felt guilty after seeing images of the dead and injured on TV in Dubai. He returned to India to repent,he told the court.
He said nine people,including Pakistanis,at the behest of Lashkar-e-Toiba,hatched the plot at the house of one of the accused in Dubai. Explosives and RDX were sent to Mumbai by the Pakistanis,he said; this was revenge for the atrocities on Muslims in Gujarat. The approver told special judge A P Bhangale that the initial plan was to attack Gujarat but the LeT insisted on Mumbai as it would have a bigger impact,he said.
In Dubai he had met Lashkar operatives Nasir Atif Mulla,Sayyed Mohammed Hanif,Billal,Samiulla,Rehman,Abid,Ashrat Ansari and Naeem. On August 25,2003,he said,Nasir had called him,said Hanif,his family and Ashrat had left in taxis to two places,and asked him to watch television. That evening,he said,he and the others congratulated Nasir on the phone and thanked Hanif and Ashrat. The approver also identified the accused in the court as members of the LeT.