In October 2012, on the Indian government’s request, Fasih Mehmood was deported from Saudi Arabia on charges of terrorism and links with the Indian Mujahideen (IM). Four months later, the Delhi Police charge-sheeted the 30-year-old, with 14 others, for his involvement in the September 2010 shooting–cum-bombing attack at the Jama Masjid on the eve of the Commonwealth Games.
Another seven months on, IM leader Yasin Bhatkal and his right-hand man Assadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, both arrested last month, have told interrogators they carried out the attack with the help of on-the-run Pakistani national Waqas and Fasih had no role in it — a long-held suspicion of security agencies.
At 11.24am on September 19, 2010, Waqas, riding pillion on a black motorcycle driven by Haddi, fired a 9mm pistol at two Taiwanese nationals as they alighted from a bus in Jama Masjid. The bullets hit the tourists in the stomach but they survived. A car-bomb parked nearby malfunctioned, averting a bigger catastrophe.
The charge sheet called Fasih an IM co-founder who came in touch with Yasin while studying engineering at Anjuman College in the Karnataka town of Bhatkal in 2002.
It also said Fasih came to India from Saudi Arabia in September 2010 to fix his marriage but ended up conspiring with Yasin to attack the historic mosque.
Yasin has said he was instructed by Karachi-based IM head Riyaz Bhatkal to target the mosque as the group was upset with Imam Ahmed Bukhari for allowing “semi-naked” foreigners inside it. The aim was to create a security scare so that foreign tourists and teams participating in the Games left the city.
He has also claimed responsibility for the failed car bombing, saying he along with Haddi and Waqas parked the stolen Maruti at nearby Dariba Kalam a day ahead of the attack but the potassium nitrate device malfunctioned.
At the time of the attack, Waqas and Haddi shared a one-room rented flat in east Delhi’s Shashtri Park while Yasin stayed with his wife Zahida’s family in Okhla’s Shaheen Bagh.
Haddi has confirmed Yasin’s version. He too, like Yasin, has not spoken of Fasih’s involvement.
But the police say the charges against Fasih were based on the disclosure statements of three important IM catches — Qateel Siddiqui, the man allegedly behind the German Bakery blast in Pune; Mohammad Tariq Anjuman Hasan, who helped transform the Students’ Islamic Movement of India into the IM; and Gauhar Aziz Khomani.
Siddiqui was killed by inmates at Pune’s Yerawada jail in June 2012 while Hasan and Khomani have been at Delhi’s Tihar jail since their arrest in Tamil Nadu in November 2011.
“The three men categorically stated every detail that was incorporated in the charge sheet,” said a senior special cell officer. “While Siddiqui and Yasin were involved in executing the operation, Fasih helped them logistically and with funds.”
The official also questioned the logic of “blindly believing” Yasin’s statements, saying, “One of the first things IM operatives are trained to do is to mislead interrogators when they are caught. This is the IM’s ploy of getting some of its most desperate and motivated cadre back on the streets.”