August 30, 2013 3:50:22 am
Mohammed Ahmed Siddibapa alias Yasin Bhatkal,who was wanted in over two dozen terror cases across India and had dodged security agencies on several occasions,was arrested in Raxaul on the India-Nepal border Thursday.
Also arrested with him was another wanted Indian Mujahideen operative,Asadulla Akhtar alias Haddi,who was allegedly part of the Azamgarh module.
The two,sources said,were tracked and watched for six months before they were picked up Wednesday night in a joint operation involving the Intelligence Bureau,the National Investigation Agency and the Bihar Police.
They were produced before a court in Motihari from where the NIA has obtained transit remand to fly them to Delhi Friday by a special BSF plane.
We had information that Yasin Bhatkal and Asadulla Haddi were going to some place in Raxaul to discuss terror plans. The joint team arrested them at Nahar Chowk. As we had prior information about them,an NIA team had reached Motihari and we had formed a special team to carry out the joint operation, Bihars Additional DGP (Headquarters) Ravindra Kumar said.
However,sources said the duo were actually in the Pokhara area,which is about 200 km west of Kathmandu. They were being watched and picked up from there with the help of local police,they said.
IM operatives Waqas and Tabrez,wanted for the July 2011 triple bombings in Mumbai,were also believed to be using this hideout.
Bhatkal is said to have frequently visited towns on the India-Nepal border which were first identified by the Darbhanga module of IM. Madrasas that have mushroomed in the area are believed to have given him a good cover. Some locals also knew him as a jadi buti waala doctor as he had some knowledge of Unani medicine.
But he apparently did not leave anything to chance. He wore a burqa each time he roamed the streets in the area and was always accompanied by people,assumed to be his security cover. The madrasa cover also helped him use his time to spot talent,a task at which he had begun to excel.
Yasin is said to have confirmed his identity after hours of questioning and the Karnataka Police was also called to identify him. The team that arrested Yasin also recovered two laptop computers,mobile phones,local SIM cards and literature.
Yasin is wanted in almost every terror attack in the country in the last six years and he evaded arrest by taking advantage of jurisdictional issues among police forces of different states. As a result,he was caught and let off by the Kolkata Police in 2009 in a petty theft case.
The local police did not know his background,particularly that he was wanted for the 2008 Delhi serial blasts. Similarly,he came back to Delhi after the German Bakery attack in Pune,got married under the new identity of Shahrukh,and stayed for about two years while security agencies believed he had fled the country.
Here,the NIAs mandate seemed to have helped. Along with the IB,the agency began to specifically dedicate teams to collate information from different state police authorities and piece them together. It soon emerged that at some point in time,many of the terror-affected states had Bhatkal on phone surveillance.
This provided two crucial patterns – one,it provided agencies a bunch of mobile numbers to work on and then zero in on those whom he was frequently in touch with; and second,it helped them map Bhatkals travel routes and more importantly,identify the places he frequented most.
Bihar showed up quite often and thats how the efforts got targeted. Pursuing this with the help of Bihar Police indicated that IM operatives had become active along towns on the India-Nepal border. This is how the surveillance gathered pace and eventually it was the IB which took charge of the Nepal-end as it accomplished the task without even getting the Nepalese authorities in the picture.
This was also done because there was some information that Bhatkal may have developed contacts among some local Nepalese politicians.
The NIA,which is probing a case of larger conspiracy against IM for its involvement in blasts across India has named Yasin,Amir Reza Khan,Iqbal Bhatkal,Riyaz Bhatkal and nine others in its investigation.
Bhatkals name first cropped up in 2008 when Delhi police raided a flat at Batla House in September that year in which two IM operatives were killed. One of the arrested IM members,Mohammad Saif,told police that a man name Shahrukh supplied explosives for the Delhi blasts. Investigators later found that Shahrukh was none other than Yasin and that he assumed different identities for every operation.
His parents and their extended family,who hail from the coastal town of Bhatkal in Karnataka,now live in Dubai and run a perfume shop. They have always refuted the allegations made against their son and his father Zarar Siddibapa and uncle Yaqub Siddibapa even issued a press statement Thursday.
We are relieved because the truth will come out and our fears that he would be eliminated in a fake encounter have been set to rest. We have complete faith in the judicial process. He should be punished if he is guilty of any offence after the due process of law is followed. The cardinal principle that every person is innocent until proved guilty should be followed, they said.
Yasins family had sent him to Dubai in November 2005 to find a job for himself. However,he managed to flee the UAE city and return to India in 2007 after being trained to plan terror attacks,working on explosives and setting up self-sufficient modules. Since then,he played a key role in a string of terror attacks in Ahmedabad,Surat,Bangalore,Pune,Delhi and Hyderabad.
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