Who was with Yasin Bhatkal at the February 13,2010,German Bakery blast in Pune? The answer so far depended on who you asked.
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad claimed that Bhatkal was with school teacher Mirza Himayat Baig. The Delhi Police Special Cell said he was with Qateel Siddiqui and,in fact,have a confession from Siddiqui to that effect.
The Bangalore Police have a similar confession from Siddiqui. Neither Delhi Police nor Bangalore Police mention the presence of Baig.
Siddiqui was killed in prison in June 2012. Baig was sentenced to death in April 2013,a ruling he has challenged. Bhatkal is now in custody and his testimony could unravel the entire German Bakery case. Because the two versions of what happened in Pune one put together by the Maharashtra Police and the other by the police in Delhi and Bangalore dont quite match.
WHAT MAHARASHTRA ATS SAID
The Maharashtra ATS claimed to have identified Bhatkal as the young man wearing a cap and carrying a rucksack from a grainy clip captured on CCTV at the neighbouring Hotel O. And said that he was accompanied by Baig.
The ATS also produced an auto-rickshaw driver who claimed that he had picked up two boys,one was tall with fair complexion,wearing a cap and having two bags hanging on his person from Pune railway station,and dropped them at Central Mall.
This auto-rickshaw driver told the court that after looking at the photograph of one suspect in the German Bakery bomb blast case in a newspaper on 25-05-2010,he remembered that he had dropped him in his auto-rickshaw on the day of the explosion and thus contacted the ATS two days later on 27-05-2010.
This auto-rickshaw driver subsequently identified Baig as the same person who was accompanying the person wearing cap and having two bags on his person.
The Maharashtra ATS investigation claimed that Baig was a close contact of Yasin Bhatkal and other accused Mohsin Choudhary (absconding),Riyaz Bhatkal (absconding),Iqbal Bhatkal (absconding),Fayyaz Kagzi (absconding) and Zabiuddin Ansari (or Abu Jundal,arrested).
They claimed that Baig visited Colombo in March 2008,and received training from Fayyaz Kagzi and Zabiuddin Ansari to assemble and explode explosive devices. The conspiracy to bomb German Bakery,as per the Maharashtra ATS,had been planned in Udgir where Bhatkal and Mohsin Choudhary had come in the last week of January,2010,to discuss and finalise the plan with Baig,who ran an Internet café there.
In the first week of February 2010,as per the Maharashtra ATS,Bhatkal and Choudhary visited Baig in Udgir to plan the blast; Baig went to Mumbai to purchase a Nokia 1100 to use as triggering device; the bomb was assembled by Bhatkal and Choudhary at Baigs Internet café.
On February 13,2010,the Maharashtra ATS claims,Baig,along with Bhatkal,carried the explosive device from Udgir and reached Pune railway station,and from there went to Central Mall in the auto-rickshaw,after which Bhatkal proceeded towards German Bakery to plant the bomb.
While the ATS claimed that Baig was arrested on September 7,2010 from Pool gate bus stop in Pune,Baig told the court that he was arrested on August 19,2010. Claiming innocence,Baig said he was picked up from Latur bus stand while he was returning to his home in Beed,bundled into a Sumo and brought to Pune.
He told the court that he was tortured in custody,taken to Kala Chowky in Mumbai where he was given electric current on the private parts,and two days later he was brought to Pune by Mr Kadam. He told the court that two to three times,he was taken to a secluded place,covering his eyes with cloth and told that he will be encountered like Khwaja Yunus and since he got scared about his life,he did whatever he was told to do.
On April,18,2013,Additional Sessions Judge,Pune,N P Dhote,gave him five death sentences and six life terms for the crime.
While this case was on,on November,22,2011,Delhi Polices Special Cell arrested Qateel Siddiqui of Darbhanga,Bihar,who was being probed for his alleged role in the blasts at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore (April 17,2010) and the attack at Jama Masjid in Delhi (September 19,2010).
The Special Cell claimed that Siddiqui was with Yasin Bhatkal in Pune at the time of the German Bakery blast. Interestingly,the Delhi Police investigation provides an elaborate narrative where Bhatkal and Qateel planned and executed the German Bakery blast and subsequently fled to Delhi.
WHAT DELHI POLICE SAID
Here is what the Delhi Polices Special Cell claimed as Qateels confession report:
On 11/02/2010,Ahmad Siddibapa alias Imran (Yasin Bhatkal) came with two bags to my room. He showed me the bombs that had been made in the two bags. He told me that to trigger a blast,we only need to fit in a battery in them. He had kept battery separately in the bags.
On 13-02-2010,we put battery in the bombs that had been kept separately in boxes made of iron and we set the time for the blast. We kept them in two separate bags. At around 3.30 pm on 13-02-2010,I went to Dagdusheth Ganesh temple while Ahmad Siddibapa alias Imran went to German Bakery. We took two separate auto rickshaws and left to plant the bombs. I and Ahmad Siddibapa had put on caps to hide our faces. I reached Dagdusheth Ganesh temple at around 5 pm and there was a lot of rush there that day. As per the plan,I bought flowers from the flower seller and I told the flower seller that I want to leave flowers,bag and chappal with him. But he refused because of the rush of people there. There was police everywhere there and I couldnt plant the bomb. I took an auto from there and as soon as I sat in the auto,I removed the battery from the bomb. I went and sat in the Scorpio that takes passengers to Mumbai and reached Dadar rail station where I took a train. On way,I heard people talk on phone about the bomb blast at German Bakery. At Jhansi,Ahmad Siddibapa met me in the same train. After reaching Delhi,I went to my village while Ahmad Siddibapa stayed in Delhi.
Meanwhile,the Bangalore Police,too,interrogated Siddiqui in connection with the Chinnaswamy Stadium blast and they recorded his confession regarding his role in the German Bakery blast. According to Qateels confession to the Bangalore police,he was called to Pune by Yasin Bhatkal. This confession reveals a narrative similar to the one in his confession to the Delhi Police Special cell. There is no mention of Baig in this.
WHAT BANGALORE POLICE SAID
Excerpts from what the Bangalore Police say Qateel told them in his confession:
Around February of 2010 Imran alias Yasin Bhatkal alias Shah Rukh called me and said he was in Pune. He asked me to go to Pune. As per his instruction I arrived in Pune and he took me to a room near the Khateej Milk Dairy.
…After the first four days… Yasin Bhatkal said that he was in Pune to carry out a bombing… He asked me to assist him. Initially I did not agree. Yasin then said that I had borrowed Rs 1 lakh from him and had failed to return it. He said he would waive the loan and give me an additional Rs 50,000 if I were to assist him in carrying out the bombings. I had no option so I agreed.
After this,Yasin took me to the Dagdusheth Ganesh temple in Pune and showed me where I should place a bomb. He gave me a bag filled with clothes and asked me to go to a flower shop with a lot of people to buy flowers,place the bag and then visit the temple and return. I did as instructed. Two days after this dummy run Yasin brought two bags to the room from somewhere. There were two assembled bombs in the bags. I dont how and where he got them or who gave it to him.
Two days later,Yasin took one of the bags and removed a bomb from it and connected wires to the battery. The bomb was set to go off at 6 pm,he said. He asked me to place the bag at a flower shop outside the Dagdusheth Ganesh temple. He asked me catch a taxi after placing the bomb and to travel to Dadar railway station in Mumbai. He said we could meet by 10.30 pm at the railway station and travel together to New Delhi. As per his directive I boarded an auto rickshaw and headed for the Dagdusheth Ganesh temple that was located some 15 km away from the room we were staying.
I lost my way while getting to the temple. By the time I reached the temple it was 5 pm. I went up to a flower seller and tried to leave the bag but the flower seller refused to let me leave my bag at his store. I began panicking about where to place the bag since the time for the bomb to explode was fast approaching. I boarded a rickshaw and headed towards the Pune bus stand. En route,I disconnected the bomb. After reaching the bus stand I caught a taxi and travelled to the Dadar station. I reached Dadar around 8 pm. I caught another taxi and asked the driver to take me somewhere seaside. While we were travelling over a bridge I could see the sea and so I asked the taxi to stop. I flung the bag with the bomb into the sea.
After this I caught another taxi and went to the Dadar station to meet with Yasin. However Yasin did not turn up. I bought myself a ticket and boarded a 10.30 pm train to Delhi. When the train reached Jhansi junction,Yasin came through the bogies looking for me.
He told me he did not meet me at Dadar because he feared that the police may have followed me. He asked me if I had managed to plant the bomb and I told him that I had been unable to plant the device at the temple. I told him I threw it in the sea. He was really angry and told me the bomb cost nearly Rs 3 lakh. He asked me why I did not place the bomb at some other place. He travelled with me till Agra and then went away. After nearly a month we met again in Darbhanga and he offered me Rs 25,000 and asked me to keep it for my use.
These two confessions reportedly made by Qateel Siddiqui before Delhi Polices Special Cell and Bangalore Police were not produced before the trial court in Pune.
Maharashtra ATS had,meanwhile,sent its officer Dinesh Kadam to Delhi to interrogate Qateel. The Maharashtra ATS didnt use Qateels confession in the German Bakery case but filed a new case against Siddiqui regarding his disclosure about his failed attempt to explode a bomb at Dagdusheth Ganesh temple.
This new case was filed,Maharashtra ATS took his custody on May,2,2012,and kept him in their custody for 26 days. Subsequently,he was shifted to Punes Yerwada jail,where he was murdered on June 8,2012.
The police claimed that he was murdered by fellow inmates,a claim contested by his widow Fatima who has filed a petition in Bombay High Court alleging that the Maharashtra ATS and Kadam had brought him to Pune only to eliminate him. She has asked for a CBI probe.
Why was Siddiquis confession not made part of the Maharashtra ATSs German bakery bombing investigation? Now that the prime accused,Yasin Bhatkal,has been arrested,his testimony before NIA will shed new light on this question and the answer will have crucial ramifications for the case.