The arrest of Indian Mujahideen's (IM) top commanders, Zia Ur Rehman alias Waqas and Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu, would not have been possible without help from Bangladesh and Nepal.
Waqas, an alleged bomb expert with the IM believed to be a resident of Punjab, Pakistan, had slipped into Bangladesh soon after IM co-founder Yasin Bhatkal's arrest. "Bhatkal was nabbed after IB's Patna unit got a tip off," a senior IB official confirmed. "But the leak about his arrest enabled Waqas and Tehseen to escape from Mangalore hours before a police raid on August 29 last year," the official said.
For over a month, officials from R&AW and Bangladesh's Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) worked closely to track down Waqas, before sharing the information with the Delhi Police special cell.
Dhaka's cooperation came after New Delhi threw its weight behind Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina. "R&AW's assessments also indicated that Pakistan's ISI will create trouble during the hanging of Abdul Qadeer Mollah," a senior external intelligence official told HT. Mollah had been found guilty of war crimes during the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. "New Delhi shared specifics about ISI's role with Dhaka that helped foster cooperation in tracking the IM," the official said.
In February this year, DGFI reported it had managed to develop leads on Waqas' location. Two R&AW officials told HT that DGFI conducted raids in Bangladesh to pressurise Waqas into returning to India. Waqas was intercepted and detained by Indian intelligence officials while attempting to cross the Indo-Bangla border in early March. However, officials decided to keep Waqas' detention a secret to avoid alerting Akhtar.
Delhi Police special cell officials told HT that intelligence agencies had shared these inputs with them as well. "Since Delhi Police was working on a parallel track, we decided to conduct our operation jointly," a senior intelligence official said. Delhi Police, meanwhile, maintains that "Waqas was expected to arrive in Ajmer by train on March 22 and was arrested there."
The key to Akhtar's arrest were chats among IM members using Yahoo chat. Bhatkal's 161-page interrogation report details several of these chats. The joint team of R&AW and Delhi Police made Waqas initiate chats with Akhtar to track his location. Waqas proposed a terror attack in Rajasthan drawing out Akthar from his hideout in Nepal. At this point, Nepal's National Investigation Department (NID) swung into action and shared the details of Akhtar's movements with R&AW. He was arrested as soon as he crossed the border.
However, the handing over of Waqas and Akhtar to the Delhi Police Special Cell has now created a problem for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that has pending FIRs against them.
"As a federal agency, it is our mandate to investigate terror attacks. We have tracked down key payments to the IM from Dubai by Abdul Wahid and another person identified as Nur," an NIA official told HT. While Nur managed to give the slip to the Dubai authorities, Wahid and his accomplice are awaiting extradition to India.