The 27-year-old belonging to Pune was arrested from near Sahranpur Railway Station in western Uttar Pradesh.
Special Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) S N Shrivastava said Shaikh had assisted Yasin Bhatkal in carrying out the German Bakery blasts of February 2010. He would allegedly send out IM emails after every blast and provide logistics support to IM operatives.
Shaikh’s brother-in-law, alleged top IM member Mohsin Choudhary, is wanted in the German Bakery blasts.
The Delhi Police claimed that during interrogation, Shaikh had said that Chaudhary had helped him join the terror group. “After the Batla House Encounter in 2008, Mohsin along with the Bhatkal brothers fled to Pakistan. Mohsin asked Ajaz to stay back in India and become more tech savvy, while leading a normal life so as not to raise suspicions. He already had a diploma in hardware, networking and Linux operation, he trained in the latest in Information and Communication Technology,” said Shrivastava.
Till early this year, Shaikh had been in-charge of back office operations at a BPO in Pune. The Delhi Police alleged he left home in February, fearing arrest, without informing his family. Shaikh’s wife had filed a missing person’s report then.
His family, that lives in Ghorpade Peth in Pune, denied the terror charges against Shaikh, saying the 27-year-old was a “secular” youth who had many non-Muslim friends and had never been involved in fanatic or radical activities.
His parents, however, admitted he had gone missing. He left home on February 15, around 11.30 pm, saying he was going to Bangalore for an interview in a new company, but did not return. He also left his cellphone behind, just taking his SIM card. A missing person’s complaint was lodged at the Khadak Police Station by the family on February 19.
We tried our best to search him. We went to Bangalore and put up posters carrying his photograph at various locations, appealing people to inform us if they saw him,” said Shaikh’s father Sayeed Abdul Qadar Shaikh, who is an embroidery artist.
A family member said a month after he left home, Shaikh’s wife had delivered a baby boy.
At a press conference held on July 18, four months after Shaikh’s disappearance, his parents claimed he went missing because he was “debt-ridden”.
Police said while they were still probing why Shaikh was in Saharanpur, he had been changing his hideouts frequently since Yasin Bhatkal’s arrest.
We received information on Friday about a suspected IM operative, linked to IM leader Riyaz Bhatkal and Mohsin Chaudhary, whose name had not been revealed till date. We developed this information and sent a team to Saharanpur. Ajaz Shaikh was arrested on the intervening night of September 5, 6,” said Shrivastava.
According to the police, Shaikh would send out emails from IM to media houses using different IP addresses and accessing different WiFi accounts. Each of these mails was allegedly sent to him from Pakistan by Riyaz Bhatkal.
In 2010, before the German Bakery blasts, he is said to have arranged for a mobile handset, SIM card and rented accommodation for Yasin Bhatkal near Bharatiya Vidyapeeth in Pune.
At the July 18 press conference, Shaikh’s parents had produced documents of his bank transactions and loans. “After Ajaz went missing, recovery agents for HDFC (credit card and personal loan) and SBI (credit card) had contacted us saying he had taken loans to the tune of Rs 3 lakh, but had stopped paying instalments.”
His father said Shaikh may have never told him about his financial troubles fearing his anger. “Even at his marriage he had taken a loan of Rs 1.5 lakh from friends. I had to repay it… He may have taken loan for luxuries like costly clothes,” he said.
Shaikh’s family said on Saturday that they hadn’t been contacted by the police and came to know of his arrest from the media.
When he went missing, we had approached the Pune police and state Anti-Terrorism Squad on our own and informed them he was untraceable. Even later we frequently contacted the cops and were open to any questions. At the press meet in July, we appealed that he should come back and not bother about the loan repayment. We were afraid he would commit suicide as his name was being reported as a missing terror suspect,” Sayeed Shaikh said.
Ajaz had seen how his sister, married to Mohsin, suffered after Mohsin went absconding. We believe he would never do this,” said a relative.
Mohsin had got married to Ajaz’s sister in 2001. He is believed missing since 2008, the same year that his brother Mohammed Choudhary was arrested along with other IM suspects.
Incidentally, there is no case against Ajaz registered with the Pune police.