Investigators suspect involvement of Dr Shahnawaz, founder member of Indian Mujahideen (IM) and on the run since Batla House encounter of September 2008 in Delhi in the third strike on Varanasi since 2005. According to sources this BAMS doctor from Azamgarh is now controlling remnants of IM, which was almost decimated after Batla House encounter. According to sources Shahnawaz had planted bombs in earlier two occasions.
Latest intelligence inputs show that IM under Shahnawaz was trying to recruit new cadres not only from Azamgarh but from areas surrounding Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh. Sources say timing is the key. The Jama Masjid firing incident of September 19 this year took place on the second anniversary of Batla House encounter, whereas the Varanasi blast happened just a day after 18th anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition. That indicates involvement of remnants of IM. They also say that use of low intensity explosives is also deliberate. The idea is to show IM’s presence but not in spectacular way so that it doesn’t become an India-Pakistan matter like the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. The incidents at German Bakery in Pune, Jama Masjid in Delhi and now in Varanasi fit the pattern.
According to intelligence inputs, Iqbal Bhatkal and Riyaz Bhatkal, founders of IM are trying to regroup their outfit for the last two years. Iqbal Bhatkal is now in UAE, while his younger brother Riyaz is in Karachi.
The arrests of two alleged IM operatives-Shahzad Alam and Salman- in Uttar Pradesh provided solid evidences of IM’s regrouping. Both Salman and Shahzad were on the run since the Batla House encounter. Salman told that Shahnawaz is heading the IM’s ‘northern brigade’ which had been rendered headless after the killing of Atif Ameen in the Batla House encounter. Shahnawaz is the elder brother of Mohammad Saif, who was arrested by Delhi police on charges of planting bombs in Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.
Salman told after Batla House encounter he and Dr Shahnawaz were left India via Nepal along with three other IM members-Khalid, Abu Rashid, Bada Sajid. They procured forged Nepali passports and reached Sharjah. After reaching there, Dr. Shahnawaj contacted Amir Raza Khan in Pakistan on the internet. After a month and a half, Amir Raza Khan visited them in Sharjah. Iqbal Batkal was also present there. There they discussed plans to revive IM.
Then Salman along with another IM member Khalid went to Karachi for training in arms and ammunition in December 2009. There they met with Riyaz Bhatkal. After completion of training Riyaz sent Khalid to Sharjah and Salman was told to go to back to Nepal.
Salman also revealed that in a new strategy is being worked upon by the IM to was send fidayeens to attack ''high value'' targets like foreigners.
The arrest of two accused persons - Himayat Baig and Bilal - in the German Bakery case also gave fresh insights into the IM’s western module. According to sources, Karachi based Zabiuddin Ansari, an accused in Aurangabad arms haul case of 2006 and a member of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) has joined hands with Riyaz Bhatkal and Amir Raza Khan at the instructions of his handlers in Pakistan. He along with Fayaz Kagzi, another LeT operative based in Pakistan, is trying to provide new recruits to IM from the area around Aurangabad in Maharashtra.