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Ahmedabad blasts: Three masterminds

Police have zeroed in on three men, currently in Pak, who they believe were the masterminds behind the deadly blasts in Ahmedabad, report Stavan Desai and Abhishek Sharan.

india Updated: Jul 29, 2008 01:32 IST

Police and intelligence agencies have zeroed in on three men, all currently living in Pakistan, who they believe were the masterminds behind Saturday’s deadly blasts in Ahmedabad.

They are Rasool Khan Yakoob Khan Pathan alias Rasool ‘Party’, Sohail Khan and Mufti Sufiyan. All three are key operatives of either the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) or the Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami (HuJI).

Little is known about the last two beyond the fact that Sufiyan hails from Ahmedabad, and fled to Pakistan after the Gujarat riots of February 2002 vowing to avenge the pogrom against the Muslim community that occurred then. But
‘Party’s’ background and activities are far better documented.

Party was once a close aide of the late Ahmedabad don — Abdul Latif — who was in charge of Dawood Ibrahim’s Gujarat operations. He hails from the Muslim dominated Dariyapur area of the city, and has about 25 cases of murder, attempted murder, extortion and kidnapping against him. Among his victims were allegedly Rauf Walliullah, state Congress general secretary then, who was shot dead in January 1992.

Party fled to Karachi on a false passport in 1996 after his godfather Latif’s arrest. But he returned a year later to set up base in Hyderabad, calling himself a marble dealer from Rajasthan. “He stayed in Hyderabad till August 2002 building a strong network there with the help from his three brothers,” a crime branch official said.

His transition from a criminal to a terrorist, intelligence sources maintain, occurred with the 2002 Gujarat riots. His first terror crime was allegedly the serial blasts in Ahmedabad on May 1, 2003, in which he is named as an absconding suspect. Following the riots, he recruited 14 youths from Hyderabad and sent them to Pakistan for terror training before fleeing the country again, an intelligence source revealed.

Party even had close links with those responsible for former Gujarat minister Haren Pandya’s killing. Investigations into the killing have revealed that Hyderabad-based Mohammed Azgar Ali, who pumped three bullets into Pandya, was one of the 14 recruited by Party and send across the border.

Another of these 14 youths was Mohammed Shahid alias Bilal who later allegedly became the HuJI 's operations chief in India and acquired notoriety as the man who masterminded both the deadly in Hyderabad last year — the one at Mecca Masjid in May, and the twin blasts in August.

Investigators are revisiting at least three other terrorism cases in which Party has been chargesheeted as an absconding accused. They are also looking into possible links between these three men and those allegedly responsible for the serial blasts in various courts across Uttar Pradesh on November 23 last year.

Officials suspect that a HuJI operative, known only by his aliases of Guru and Rocky, sent the e-mail just before blasts rocked civil courts across Faizabad, Lucknow and Varanasi using the name of ‘Indian Mujahideen’ for the first time. “The language and tenor of all the subsequent e-mails relating to terror blasts that have been sent are the same, lending credence to the view that they were all sent by the same person,” said a senior intelligence officer.