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Thursday, October 21, 2021

1993 Mumbai serial blasts: Men on the ground from planning to execution

1993 Mumbai serial blasts: While the court convicted five of the accused under the common charge of criminal conspiracy, it acquitted Siddiqui of the charges, finding him guilty only under one section of the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.

Written by Sadaf Modak | Mumbai |
Updated: June 17, 2017 8:26:43 am
Abu Salem being taken back to Taloja jail after the verdict Friday. Narendra Vaskar

Abu Salem Abdul Qayoom Ansari, Age: 48  

Arrested on November 11, 2005

Transported arms from Bharuch to Mumbai, gave rifles to Sanjay Dutt

Along with 42 others, gangster Abu Salem was listed as an absconding accused in the first chargesheet in the trial filed on November 4, 1993. Declared a proclaimed offender in October 1993, Salem was detained in Lisbon, Portugal, on September 18, 2002, and was sent back to India on November 11, 2005, following a long extradition process.

In the second week of January 1993, according to the CBI, Salem went to Gujarat in a Maruti car, with accused Aziz Bilakhia, to receive arms, ammunition and explosives, and to transport these to Mumbai. The arms were to be distributed and stored among the co-accused for terrorist acts in Mumbai. Salem allegedly exchanged the car for a Maruti van with Riyaz Siddiqui, also convicted Friday. Salem collected nine AK-56 rifles and around 100 hand grenades, some boxes of cartridges and magazines from Sansrod near Bharuch in Gujarat and transported these to Mumbai via Bhiwandi. The arms were concealed in false cavities of the Maruti van that he got from Siddiqui.

Some of these weapons were subsequently delivered to actor Sanjay Dutt, who was convicted in 2007 and completed his sentence. In a confession, Dutt said Salem, accompanied by Samir Hingora and Baba Musa Chauhan, visited his residence. Dutt hugged the gangster and asked him about the weapons, asking him to bring them the following day. On January 16, 1993, Salem and the others went to Dutt’s house again. He kept three AK-56 rifles in a car belonging to Dutt and handed over some hand grenades. Frightened on seeing the weapons, Dutt panicked and directed his friend Hanif Kandawala to take away the weapons. Salem went to Dutt’s house a few days later and took away two AK-56s, leaving behind one rifle and some of the ammunition.

The weapons taken back were given to Zaibunnisa Ansari, convicted in 2007, at the instance of Bilakhia and Dawood’s brother Anees Ibrahim Kaskar, who Salem had earlier worked for. After charges were framed against him in 2006, Salem filed an appeal before the Portugal Supreme Court claiming that the charges violated the extradition treaty with Portugal, as he had been charged for offences that he was not extradited for by the Court of Appeals at Lisbon. He claimed he could only be tried for offences mentioned in the extradition decree, which did not include some sections of TADA, Arms Act, Explosive Substances Act and Explosives Act. The Portugal court ruled that India had violated the extradition treaty, but said a decision could only be taken by diplomatic powers. Salem’s plea before the Portugal government remains pending.

Mustafa Ahmed Umar Dossa (alias Mustafa Majnu)Age: In his 50s

Arrested on March 20, 2003 

Attending conspiracy meetings, paying for Pak travel, arranging landing of arms: Dossa was central to execution

The main charges against Mustafa Dossa include his participation in conspiracy meetings at the house of his brother Mohammed Dossa in Dubai between December 1992 and January 1993, along with prime absconding accused Dawood Ibrahim, Tiger Memon and others. The first conspiracy meeting was held in Dubai at the residence of the Dossa brothers. The CBI claims the idea of sending weapons to India to take revenge for the demolition of Babri Masjid and the subsequent communal rioting was discussed at the very first meeting. Dossa is also charged with sending arms and ammunition from Dubai, asking brother Mohammed Dossa to arrange for their landing at Dighi jetty in Raigad and illegally smuggling arms on January 9, 1993. The court observed that Dossa took the “first step” in the conspiracy by sending the arms and ammunition for the blasts. The CBI claims it was according to Dossa’s instructions that the arms were distributed. While Mustafa Dossa organised the first landing, two subsequent landings of RDX and other ammunition at Shekhadi were facilitated by absconding co-accused Tiger Memon.

For another conspiracy meeting at White House, the residence of Dawood Ibrahim in Dubai, other accused including Firoz Abdul Rashid Khan were flown in by Dossa who also facilitated their pick-up, accommodation and other arrangements. He is also alleged to have received six accused at the Dubai airport and arranged their visa and stay in Dubai. He also took one of the accused to the home of Dawood Ibrahim. The arrangement and expenditure for the journey of the co-accused to Pakistan for training in arms was also done by Dossa.

The evidence against him included confessions by two co-accused that establish the link between Mustafa Dossa, Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon.

According to one confession, Mustafa Dossa’s elder brother Mohammed Dossa met a customs officer about six to eight months before the blasts and told the officer that Mustafa would send arms from Dubai that should be collected at the port. The witness told the court that Dossa had told him to unload the ‘samaan’, gang parlance for arms and ammunition.

Firoz Abdul Rashid Khan (alias Hamza Abdul Rashid Khan), Age: 47

Arrested on February 5, 2010

Assisted in landing of arms at Dighi

HIS NAME having cropped up in the initial investigations, Firoz was named in the first chargesheet filed on November 3, 1993. But he had remained a wanted accused for 17 years, and was arrested only in 2010, nearly three years after the TADA court had convicted a 100 people in the case.

Firoz thus appeared at serial number 28 in the list of absconders against whom a non-bailable warrant was issued by the court. Until his eventual arrest, Firoz was living under the assumed identity of Ferozuddin Shaikh in Koparkhairane, Navi Mumbai.

According to the CBI, Firoz, son of a retired Indian Navy officer, fled the country after the 1993 blasts, reportedly to the Middle East, but returned in 2005 on a forged passport. Police later claimed that he made frequent trips between the Middle East and Navi Mumbai. After one such trip to Oman on February 3, 2010, police received a tip-off about his real identity, then Joint Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria had said at a press conference after the arrest.

Evidence against Firoz includes confessional statements of his co-accused, two approvers, and his own confession that he later retracted. According to the evidence, Firoz was unemployed in 1989 when he met Abu Bakar Abdul Gafur Shaikh, who remains an absconding accused. The two are accused of purchasing smuggled goods such as TV sets, refrigerators, VCRs and selling them to shops on Lamington Road, Mumbai. The two came in touch with Salim Moidduin Shaikh along with whom they met Mohammed Dossa and his brother Mustafa who were then involved in smuggling gold and silver. They began working for the Dossas, delivering gold and silver to clients across Mumbai and elsewhere, the CBI had claimed.

In 1993, amid the landing of smuggled goods, Firoz had seen arms and ammunition including AK-56 rifles, hand grenades and pistols in boxes, along with bags of silver and gold. The weapons had come from Dubai, apparently sent by Mustafa Dossa. Firoz and others concealed the weapons, some of which were given to a man associated with Tiger Memon in Panvel. The rest were kept at the house of an associate, Shabir Quadri, in Mhashala. On Friday, the court observed that Firoz was present in the second conspiracy meeting held in a hotel in Panvel and was party to the negotiations that took place where Mohammed Dossa settled the bribe amount of customs officials for smooth landing of arms and ammunition. The court also said the evidence showed that Firoz was part of a meeting held at the house of Dawood Ibrahim in Dubai in February 1993 where the conspiracy was discussed.

Firoz was in Mumbai on March 12, 1993. A few days later, he received a call from Mohammed Dossa, who asked them to go to Quadri’s house and discard the remaining weapons. Firoz and others threw these in the sea, and subsequently left the city on March 18. He lived in Nepal till 1995 and eventually got a fake passport on which he travelled to the Middle East. In his confession, Firoz said he met Dawood Ibrahim in Karachi in 1996-97 and in 1999. He returned to India in 2005 and assumed a false identity.

In 2011, Firoz’s name hit the headlines when he featured on a list of 50 most wanted terrorists believed to be hiding in Pakistan when he had actually been arrested the year before and was lodged in a Mumbai jail. Throughout the trial, Firoz has claimed that his is a case of mistaken identity and that the CBI has arrested the wrong person. He says he is actually Hamza Abdul Rashid Khan, Firoz’s step-brother. The CBI rejected his claim in the supplementary chargesheet filed against him, saying as many as 12 witnesses confirmed that he was Firoz, the man involved in the 1993 blasts. Firoz on his part examined 16 witnesses, including himself, to bolster his claim. On Friday, the court said Firoz was not Hamza but the proclaimed offender declared so in 1993.

Among the witnesses who deposed in court was a classmate who said he was sure this was Firoz. In 2015, Firoz also sought the examination of 14 defence witnesses, including three convicts, to support his claim of a mistaken identity.

The CBI has contended that Firoz had full knowledge of the conspiracy and he “actively participated in the preparatory work of landing the arms” at Dighi jetty.

Taher Merchant, Age: 55

Arrested on June 8, 2010

Arranged visas, stay of men sent to Pakistan for training

AN ALLEGED hawala operator in Dubai, Taher Merchant had an NBW issued against him on September 8, 1994, a Red Corner Notice in 1994 and an extradition request to the UAE in April 2004. After prolonged proceedings, UAE extradited Merchant on June 1, 2010. He was handed over to the CBI in Abu Dhabi on June 7, 2010, and brought to Mumbai on June 8. The CBI named Merchant as one of the main conspirators who “hatched, participated and contributed toward the fulfilment of the objective of the conspiracy”. He attended conspiracy meetings in Dubai, “actively organised” seven or eight such meetings at his office/residence in Dubai and “floated and propagated” the objective of the conspiracy to avenge the Babri demolition.

He motivated associates to arrange for men from Mumbai to be sent to Pakistan for arms training. He arranged for the visa and stay of the men who went to Dubai to travel further to Pakistan where they were trained in handling sophisticated arms, making bombs and hurling hand grenades. At least 15 such men returned to Dubai and were housed in Merchant’s flats in Dubai, according to some confessions. These men told the CBI that Merchant arranged for their tickets, financed their travel and ensured smooth entry into and exit from Pakistan. The CBI claims Merchant had contacts with ISI. He also actively organised funds to procure arms and ammunition, besides video cassettes containing provocative speeches.

The prosecution said he was compelled to join the conspiracy but had soon repented and complained of giddiness after which his training in Pakistan was discontinued. Merchant had, however, later threatened him against telling anyone about the planning and training. The CBI claims he had clear knowledge of the conspiracy and was one of the main conspirators and executors.

Riyaz Siddiqui, Age: In his 60s

Arrested on January 4, 2006

Drove van with cavities to transport arms from Bharuch to Mumbai

AFTER Abu Salem’s extradition from Lisbon and his subsequent arrest, the CBI claims, he gave a voluntary confession disclosing the role played by him and three co-accused. One of those men was Riyaz Siddiqui. The CBI found that Siddiqui had been deported from UAE in May 2003 and was in the custody of the Crime Intelligence Unit for a case registered at the Bandra police station. His custody was then sought by the CBI and he was arrested on January 4, 2006.

According to CBI, Siddiqui went to Bharuch in January 1993, on the instructions of Kaskar, in a white Maruti van that had built-in cavities. He exchanged this van for a Maruti car that Salem was driving, thus “facilitating the transportation of illicit arms, ammunition and explosives”. After all the consignments of arms and ammunition landed on Maharashtra’s coastline, it was distributed as per Mustafa Dossa’s direction. One such consignment was sent to Bharuch.

The CBI claims Siddiqui financed Salem “to further the object of the conspiracy”. Of this consignment, three AK-56 rifles, some hand grenades and 250 rounds were delivered to Sanjay Dutt at his residence.

The CBI claims Siddiqui played a major role in facilitating safe transportation of part of the arms consignment from Bharuch to Mumbai. A witness told the CBI that SIddiqui delivered the van with secret cavities knowing it would be used to transport ‘samaan’. According to the CBI, ‘samaan’ in gangsters’ parlance means weapons, so Siddiqui knew what was to be carried in the van.

Apart from mentioning Siddiqui’s proximity to Kaskar, Dutt’s confession was also presented as evidence against Siddiqui.

“Siddiqui given his close proximity and endearment to the main conspirators Anees Ibrahim Kaskar and Mustafa Dossa took upon himself to bring some part pf the arms and ammunition that were smuggled into India through the landing on Dighi Jetty on January 9, 1993,” says the CBI chargesheet.

The court Friday did not find evidence to link Siddiqui to the main conspiracy, convicting him only under one TADA section.

Siddiqui, however, is an accused in the Pradeep Jain murder case, where he first turned approver and later retracted his statement. The court is likely to decide on the case on June 27.

Karimulla Khan (alias Karimulla Hussain Habib Shaikh), Age: 55

Arrested on August 22, 2008 

Part of two landings of arms and ammo, attended conspiracy meeting

ALSO NAMED in the 1993 chargesheet, Karimulla was declared a proclaimed offender and an NBW was issued against him in 1994. The Mumbai Police arrested Karimulla on August 22, 2008. According to his confession, he was born in Mumbai in 1963 and his father worked as a dock labourer in the Mumbai Port Trust. Karimulla was also a labourer until 1986, after which he was arrested for allegedly killing a drug dealer. He then met Ejaz Pathan, and through him met the other co-accused. In February 1993, he was told one day he would be required at the landing of smuggled silver.

The CBI says he was part of two landings of arms and ammunition in Shekhadi. One of the accused who later turned approver identified Karimulla in court as the person with him in the landing operations. He also identified Karimulla as having attended a meeting in an Alibaug hotel on February 2, 1993, where Tiger Memon spoke on the Babri Masjid demolition and atrocities against Muslims. After the meeting, the men left for Shekhadi where AK-56 rifles, pistols, grenades and rounds were delivered at night.

Ejaz Pathan (now dead) had directed all his gang members to participate in the landings at Shekhadi. Karimulla was informed while proceeding to Shekhadi that the landing will be of arms and ammunition imported for causing bomb blasts. The men had unloaded the weapons from one tempo to another, and loaded 100-150 bags and boxes and transported them to Mumbai.

On February 9, Karimulla and three others met in Navi Mumbai and left for Shekhadi again for another landing. On the day of the blasts, however, fearing that the attack was Memon’s doing and afraid he would be arrested, he called Pathan and with his help, escaped to Dubai and from there to Pakistan. There, he bought a Pakistani passport and eventually became Pathan’s bodyguard and then Kaskar’s bodyguard. He said in his confession he knew that an arrest warrant had been issued against him.

In 2006, he returned to India through Nepal and began living in Mira Road area with family, before shifting to Nallasopara.

The CBI claimed that one of the men sent to Pakistan was “actively inspired and sent” by Karimulla. The witness said Karimulla had asked him if he had a passport and told him he would send him to Dubai for training in arms. The man later informed Karimulla that arrangement could not be made for training due to some reason and that he had to return to India. The CBI claimed that Karimulla collected the passport of the accused and arranged for his ticket to Dubai.

The Lone Acquittal

Abdul Qayyum Karim Shaikh, Age: 64

Arrested on December 13, 2007

Charged with procuring, sending arms to India

Qayyum’s name came up in relation to the conspiracy only in 2005, after a confession given by Abu Salem following the latter’s extradition that year. A non-bailable warrant was issued against Qayyum in 2006 and he was arrested by the Mumbai Police on December 13, 2007.

According to the CBI, Qayyum and absconding accused Anees Kaskar procured arms, ammunition and explosives and sent them to India. After the first conspiracy meeting in Dubai where Dawood Ibrahim, Kaskar and Tiger Memon among others were present, the CBI claims, Qayyum was involved in sending the first consignment of arms to Dighi port, along with Mustafa Dossa and Kaskar.

However, the first two prosecution witnesses had not named Qayyum. The charges against him say he “facilitated the safe transportation of the part of the consignment of arms and ammunition from Pakistan to Bombay”.

In his confession, Salem told the court that when he had called a co-accused to discuss the transportation of weapons, the man had said there was nothing to worry about as the weapons belonged to Anees and his close friend Qayyum. Actor Sanjay Dutt also said that D-gang member Qayyum had met him at RK Studio in September 1992. Dutt said Qayyum was with a stranger and both had showed him a 9mm pistol with ammunition and offered it to him, which he purchased for Rs 40,000.

Another witness deposed that he knew Qayyum since his childhood and that he had told the witness in August 1992 that he had gone to supply a pistol and bullets to Dutt. Further, the witness said, when he met Qayyum in Dubai after the blasts, the latter did not reply when asked about his role in the blasts. A witness also told the court that Qayyum had said he worked as a manager in an office belonging to Dawood Ibrahim.

The court, however, found that the evidence against Qayyum was not “credible” or “acceptable”.

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