If we have had one good piece of news in recent times, it is the arrest of Yasin Bhatkal, the mastermind behind the Indian Mujahideen (IM). At last the security agencies, after much effort, have got their hands on the elusive terrorist, often referred to as the ‘ghost who bombs’.
Apart from this being a morale booster, Bhatkal is a repository of crucial information, relating not just to indigenous terror modules but also to the jihad factories supported and armed by Pakistan’s ISI.
The Indian Mujahideen is considered the first main homegrown terror group and Yasin has been its guiding force, both recruiting and training disgruntled Muslim youth. The IM is suspected to be behind a string of blasts across the country, including Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi and Bangalore. Yasin’s face has been caught on several CCTV cameras but the security forces were not able to land such a big fish in the net until now.
His arrest, coming close on the heels of Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Abdul Qarim Tunda and December 26/11 Mumbai attack conspirator Abu Jundal, who directed terrorists in Mumbai from a control room in Karachi, will help the intelligence as well as the investigating agencies join the dots on many spectacular terror attacks that still remain unsolved.
Starting with the bombing of the German Bakery in Pune, many of the serial blasts that have devastated several cities across India, have not been cracked. Security officials believe that Yasin will be able to provide important answers that will help India in more ways than one.
Yasin should now be able to lead security officials to other IM operatives. Over the years, the IM has gone from becoming an indigenous organisation to one that developed close links with groups like the LeT. IM’s main patrons — Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal — also known as the Bhatkal brothers are holed up in Karachi. Yasin is the one man who can provide crucial information on how the Pakistani state collaborates with non-state actors and how it exports terror to India. Indeed, Yasin’s revelations will help India build further on its case against the Pakistani ISI and Army’s open patronage to jihadi groups.
But even as the security establishment celebrates Yasin’s arrest, there is little room for complacency. While the arrest will send the IM’s cadre underground and also de-motivate its members in the short-term, this by no means amounts to the end of the Indian Mujahideen itself. Osama-bin-Laden’s death did not kill the al-Qaeda. In this case, important and senior members of the IM remain out of reach across the border. The security apparatus would also do well to remember that the IM is one group that has mastered the use of technology. The capture of Yasin is a case of one down, but many more to go.