Key Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Ajaz Sheikh, who was arrested by Delhi Police in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, revealed during police interrogation that the terror outfit was planning a strike in the national capital during the upcoming festival season.
According to a senior police official, 27-year-old Sheikh, who was the logistics man and hawala router of the banned terror organisation, had fled to Nepal after the arrest of Yasin Bhatkal last year and had been hiding there since then.
“He was recently asked by his Pakistan-based handlers Riyaz Bhatkal and Mohsin Chowdhary to reach Delhi. He was specifically asked to do break journeys and not directly go to Delhi to avoid being traced. He was instructed to reach the national capital via Lucknow, Moradabad and Saharanpur. He was supposed to get further orders after reaching Delhi,” the official said.
Although Sheikh has claimed that the person(s) he was supposed to meet and activities he was supposed to carry out after reaching Delhi was to be revealed to him only at the last moment, investigators believe that given his role in IM, he was supposed to provide money to some sleeper cell operatives of IM through the hawala route.
That money could have been used to plan a terror strike in the national capital.
Police are now trying to find out who the people are whom Sheikh met while journeying through Lucknow and Moradabad. It is also being investigated where he stayed in these cities and for how long.
“It is also being investigated who his contacts were in Saharanpur and Delhi whom he was supposed to meet,” the official said.
Sheikh has revealed that his main role was to provide funds to IM operatives which he used to get through foreign money transfers using fake identity cards made by him. In the past, he has provided bulk cash to people like Yasin Bhatkal, Tehsin Akhtar, Assadullah Akhtar alias Haddi and Waqas (all arrested).
One of the first tasks entrusted to Sheikh by his Pakistan-based handlers was to assist Yasin Bhatkal in the execution of the German Bakery blasts of February, 2010.
For that strike, Sheikh had arranged for the mobile handset, SIM card, explosives and the rented accommodation near Bharti Vidyapeeth, Pune, used by Yasin Bhatkal to fabricate the improvised explosive devices (IED) and execute the blasts.
“A week before the blast, he got a call from Mohsin Chowdhary who told him that he will get a call on a mobile phone which was with Yasin Bhatkal and asked him to do as told over the phone.
“An hour later, he got a call from a PCO and was asked to come to a hotel where he was given a heavy bag.
“He came back to their base and handed over the phone and the bag to Bhatkal. This bag contained the explosives which were used in the German Bakery blast,” the official said.
Ajaz has also told his interrogators that he had met Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu earlier this year and twice gave him sums of Rs 1 lakh. He also met Waqas twice, first in Mumbai and then in Kolhapur, and also supplied him money.
“He also met Assadullah Akhtar alias Haddi in Pune and gave him Rs 1 lakh. All this money was routed through hawala (channels) and was used for everyday spending, travelling and logistics,” the official said.
Sheikh (27) was arrested following a specific tip-off on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday from outside Saharanpur railway station in western Uttar Pradesh by a team of Delhi Police’s Special Cell.
A resident of Pune in Maharashtra, Sheikh was the ‘silent’ India-based techie, logistics man and hawala router of the banned terrorist organisation.
He was also the “mystery man” who sent anonymous mails to media houses claiming responsibility after the Jama Masjid and Varanasi blasts in 2010.
Sheikh also used to prepare the fake identities required by them for procuring mobile SIM cards, collecting foreign money transfers, obtaining rooms on rent and to get enrolled in professional educational institutions as a cover, police said.