Questions are being raised about the probe by the state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) after the Bombay High Court set aside the death penalty of Mirza Himayat Inayat Baig on March 17. Baig was allegedly the prime conspirator in the German Bakery (GB) blast in Pune on February 13, 2010, which left 17 persons dead and 64 others injured.
However, the investigation into GB blast suffered from many lapses and controversies before and even after Baig’s arrest.
Controversy 1: Arrest of Yasin’s brother and MHA press release
The first controversy erupted after the ATS arrested Abdul Samad, brother of Indian Mujahideen (IM) terror operative Yasin Bhatkal on May 24, 2010 in connection with the August 2009 arms seizure case in Mumbai. However, on May 25, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued a press release quoting then Home Minister P Chidambaram as saying that the ATS Maharashtra with the assistance of Pune police had identified Samad from Bhatkal in Karnataka, as the prime suspect in the Pune blast.
The Pune police and ATS officers started to congratulate each other. But this episode turned out to be a major embarrassment for the investigation team as Samad was never arrested or even named as an accused in GB blast case. Police sources claimed that a Samad lookalike suspect was seen in a CCTV grab obtained from GB. Investigators now say that it was not Samad but his brother Yasin Bhatkal. During an even Pune on June 2016, the former director general of police D Sivanandan (now retired), slammed the ATS saying, “pehli galti (first mistake) was the terror attack at bakery and dusari galti (second attack) was incorrect investigation.”
Controversy 2: ATS officer said Baig was not in Pune on blast day, later retracted
A few days after Baig was arrest from Pune on September 7, 2010, then deputy inspector general of police (ATS) Ravindra Kadam told the media in Udgir that Baig was not in Pune on the day of GB blast. Kadam had said that Baig assembled the explosives with Mohsin Choudhary and Yasin Bhatkal at the Global Internet Cafe in Udgir but did travel to Pune. Kadam said that Moshin and Yasin carried the bomb to Pune. Later, Kadam retracted his statement saying it was a misunderstanding on his part and that Baig was in Pune on the day of blast. Meanwhile, Baig claimed that the ATS arrested him from Latur on August 19.
Controversy 3: No proof of Baig’s terror training in Colombo
The ATS chargesheet mentioned that Baig had visited Colombo where LeT operatives Fayyaz Kagzi and Zabiuddin Ansari gave him terror training. Baig’s passport details did show that he had visited Colombo. However, Baig told the court that he went to Colombo to sell Indian readymade garments and perfumes which he had purchased from Kharghar in Mumbai. Baig said he returned to India as he did not earn much and could not get a job in Colombo.
Baig’s laywer argued in the sessions court that the ATS team never visited Colombo and failed to submit any evidence of Baig’s alleged terror training. Investigation officer ACP Vinod Satav (now retired) had said that ATS wrote to Interpol and other intelligence agencies seeking information on the conspiracy hatched by the accused in Colombo. Satav said these letters were submitted to the court. He said ATS did not get any positive reply from these agencies as the “conspiracy took place in 2008 and we sought information about it in 2010.”
Controversy 4: Baig’s name did not appear in the interrogation of Qateel Siddiqui
Arrest of IM operative Mohammed Qateel Siddiqui in November 2011 by the Delhi police revealed that he had conducted a recce of the German Bakery along with Yasin Bhatkal. Interrogation of Siddiqui by the Delhi police, the Bangalore police and the NIA never pointed at Baig’s involvement in the GB blast. Siddiqui had allegedly planned to bomb the Dagdusheth Ganapati temple on Feburary 13, 2010, the same day the GB blast occurred. The Maharashtra ATS arrested Siddiqui in this case but he was mysteriously murdered by Pune gangster Sharad Mohol in the Yerwada jail in June 2012.
Controversy 5: Baig was seen in Aurangabad on the day of German Bakery blast
During the trial, two witness in the German Bakery case told the court that they had seen Baig in Aurangabad at around 8.30 pm and 10.30 pm on February 13, 2010, the day when GB was bombed. And, an autorickshaw driver who turned out to be a prime witness had deposed that he ferried Yasin and Baig from Pune railway station and dropped him at Central Mall around 4.15 pm on February 13. Then, as per the ATS theory, Yasin went inside the German Bakery and planted the bomb while Baig left for Aurangabad. The ATS believed it was possible for Baig to reach Aurangabad from Pune on a motorbike by 8.30 pm (which is travelling about 235 kms in four hours.)