IN HIS confession to police, a copy of which was made available to the Hindustan Times, Faisal Sheikh, the suspected mastermind behind the July 11 Mumbai blasts, has admitted to having planned the failed assassination attempt on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as well.
The plan was foiled by Ahmedabad police, which shot dead the four would-be assassins -- including Ishrat Jahan, a 19-year-old BSc student from Mumbra, Mumbai -- on June 16, 2004.
The 31-year-old engineering dropout, said to be a senior Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) operative, told his interrogators: "From 2001, when I returned from Bahawalpur in Pakistan after being personally recruited and trained by the LeT's 'India commander' Azam Cheema, I did everything Babaji (as the 53-year-old Cheema is cal-led by his recruits) wanted."
"After our members who were sent on a mission to eliminate Modi were shot by Ahmedabad police, I tried to arrange help for Ishrat Jahan's family," Faizal's confession said. "I gave money to Ehtesham Siddiqui (who has also now been arrested for the July 11 conspiracy), asking him to personally hand it over to Ishrat's family." Faisal did not specify how much money
he passed on.
According to the chief of Mumbai Police's Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) K.P. Raghuvanshi, Faisal himself planted the RDX-based 'cocktail bomb' which caused the train blast at Jogeshwari station.
He worked with 11 LeT operatives from Pakistan while carrying out the entire mission which caused seven blasts and killed 192 people.
Faisal was arrested by senior police inspector J.K. Hargude on July 27 this year. His team first hit the Faisal trail when he heard of a "hyperactive member" of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) who kept his face covered behind "layers of scarves and the dark visor of a helmet" every time he hit the streets on his motorcycle. Ironically it was Faisal's own cousin Noman Sheikh, who has also since been arrested, who provided the information.
Hargude said Faisal had revealed he spent six months at Bahawalpur in Pakistan in 2004, undergoing intensive training in arms and explosives, and interacting extensively with Cheema and his Inter-Services Intelligence bosses.