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Confessions of the Indian Mujahideen

21 accused, 47 blasts, more than 200 killed — HT accesses statements of 13 Indian Mujahideen operatives and pieces together how the outfit came into being seven years back. Vignesh Iyer and Presley Thomas report.

india Updated: Apr 11, 2009 01:27 IST

Laying the foundation

The Indian Mujahideen (IM), the little-known terror outfit that cropped up mysteriously and kept investigating agencies on tenterhooks, is an offshoot of the Asif Raza Commando Force (ARCF) that carried out the shootout at the US Consulate in Kolkata in 2002.

The ARCF was formed in 2001 by gangsters-turned-terrorists Aftab Ansari and Amir Raza Khan, brother of Asif Raza. The organisation didn’t last long after the Kolkata Police arrested most of its operatives after the attack. Khan fled to Dubai, where he met Ansari again. The two then roped in Riyaz Bhatkal, Iqbal Bhatkal and Mohammed Sadiq Israr Sheikh — a Class 11 dropout from Mumbai — to form the IM. Sadiq was indoctrinated and trained in Pakistani terrorist training camps at Khan’s behest.

Recruitment process

In 2003, when Sadiq got back to India, he met old friend Arif Badruddin Sheikh. Sadiq had asked Arif to scout for youngsters to fight for the Muslim cause in India. Arif got Sadiq in touch with several youth who were all sent to Pakistan for training. When they got back, there were more waiting to go. Through the fresh recruits, Sadiq got in touch with more youth. All this while, the Bhatkal brothers were busy recruiting in the south. Khan took care of the expenses, sending money through Western Union Money Transfer.

Terror planning

With the training underway, Khan wanted results. He sent a message to Sadiq and the gang got busy. With the help of key men like Riyaz and Arif, they planned blasts in Delhi, the Sankatmochan temple in Varanasi, Shramjeevi Express and Mumbai trains. Over the next few years, bombs went off in Gorakhpur, Hyderabad, Uttar Pradesh, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Surat and Delhi.

In August 2007, the IM first plotted last year’s deadly Delhi and Gujarat blasts. Explosives were collected in Mumbai and taken to Delhi. The plan for the blasts in Gujarat was formulated by Riyaz, Sadiq and one Aatif Sheikh in Mumbai in June 2008. Teams were divided — Aatif was assigned Ahmedabad, Riyaz Surat.

Executing innocents

In September 2005, when Arif returned from Pakistan, Sadiq asked him to make timers. Arif’s first attempt to make a working timer using an alarm clock of the Ajanta Company failed, so he used a Samay clock — the results of which were successful. Arif made six bombs and gave them to Sadiq. These were later used in the Sarojini Nagar and Lajpat Nagar blasts in Delhi in October 2005.

Arif got several such instructions and he delivered on all of them. His bombs were used in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and UP courts; the bombs found across Surat the day after the Ahmedabad bombings were his handiwork too.

Fear phychosis

The IM also made use of a psychological weapon — the threat e-mail. And more than the blasts, what terrorized people was the dreaded e-mail that tormented both citizens and law enforcement agencies alike. Mohammed Mansoor Asghar Peerbhoy, a 31-year-old software engineer with Yahoo, turned out to be the face behind the e-mails. Spotted by IM operatives Asif Sheikh and Anique Sayyed at Quran Foundation classes in Pune, where Peerbhoy was learning Arabic, he was doctored by the Bhatkal brothers. As bombs went off in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Delhi last, Peerbhoy mocked one and all, including the intelligence bureau that he nicknamed the “ignorance” bureau. He signed off with an arrogant “stop it if you can”.