Yasin Bhatkal, the Indian Mujahideen’s operations head for the country, claimed in a court New Delhi on Friday that he was Mohammad Ahmad and not the infamous Yasin Bhatkal.
Members of Youth Congress burn a poster of wanted Indian Mujahideen leader Yasin Bhatkal during a protest in Bengaluru. Agencies
However, the denial had no effect on counter-terror officials involved in the capture of one of India’s most wanted terrorist masterminds. They said there was no doubt about his identity and that he had, during interrogation, admitted to his involvement in at least six terror attacks - among them, the 2008 serial blasts in Ahmedabad and Delhi and bombings in Pune in 2010 and 2012 - with great pride.
“Bhatkal was initially stunned at having been plucked out of his Pokhara hideout but soon gathered himself and even bragged about being the creator of the boat-shaped improvised explosives devices used by the IM, especially in the 2008 attacks. These IEDs were ‘directional’ on impact, meant to cause maximum damage,” said one official.
Brought from Patna by special plane, Bhatkal and his right-hand man Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi were produced before a judge at the Patiala House courts, who remanded them both in NIA custody for 12 days.
At the in-camera proceedings, Bhatkal’s lawyer MS Khan argued that the man in question was Mohammad Ahmad. He later told HT his client even had a passport in that name.
But investigators said Yasin Bhatkal was just one of the many names Mohammad Ahmad Sidibappa assumed for operational purposes.
They said he showed no remorse for the deaths caused by his group. On the contrary, he expressed regret for “erring in the manufacture of the bombs or their planting a few times, which could only kill a few”. The IM is accused of orchestrating close to 10 bombings that killed upwards of 200 people.
Bhatkal also defended the attacks by claiming each of them was meant as a political message to India, the sources said.
“Bhatkal used various communication platforms of voice-over-internet-protocol to keep in touch with his Pakistani handlers. This may help us prove that the ISI raised the Indian Mujahideen with the help of Lashkar,” said a source. To his contacts in India, he reportedly sent regular letters.
He also confirmed the presence in Pakistan of IM founders Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal and Amir Reza Khan.
“Bhatkal surprised us in terms of how much he remembers. He remembers the name of the bus service operators whose buses he used to travel from point A to B. He remembers how many kilograms of shrapnel he bought and from where,” the source said.
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