A 1,809-paged chargesheet was filed before a Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Syndicate Act (MCOCA) court against 21 terror suspects of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) in connection with several serial blast cases from 2005 onwards.
The group, formed with the help of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) and the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), claimed nearly 400 lives and injured more than 1,100 in over 50 blasts from the Sankatmochan temple in Uttar Pradesh to Bangalore down south over three years.
Though the founders of IM — Amir Raza Khan, Iqbal Bhatkal, Riyaz Bhatkal — are absconding, the Mumbai Crime Branch got a vital breakthrough when they arrested former SIMI man-turned-car-thief Afzal Mutalib Usmani from UP in September 2008. Usmani had stolen four cars from Navi Mumbai and delivered them to Surat. The vehicles were later used for the serial blasts in Ahmedabad last year.
Usmani facilitated the arrest of Mohammed Sadiq Israr Sheikh, mechanical engineer from Mumbai and co-founder of IM who had direct links to LeT in Pakistan. He was also involved in the shootout at the American Centre in Kolkata in 2002. Sheikh’s arrest, in turn, led the police to other IM cadre including Mohammed Mansoor Asghar Peerbhoy, a techie from Pune.
In police custody, these men laid bare their pan-India terror plans and the blasts they orchestrated — on the Shramjeevi Express, at the Sankatmochan temple, Varanasi railway station, outside court premises in UP, in Mumbai’s suburban trains, in Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Delhi and Bangalore.
The terror outfit bifurcated into three groups — the Sahabuddin brigade for strikes in south India, the Mohammed Ghaznavi brigade for the north and the Shaheed-Al-Zarkavi brigade for strikes on VVIPs.
With their arrest also came disclosures of the outfit’s media wing — headed by Peerbhoy and assisted by Asif Bashir Shaikh and Mubin Kadar Sheikh. They were responsible for sending the terror e-mails that puzzled security agencies. They hacked into a Wi-Fi network of Khalsa College to send a terror mail and sent another from a private firm, Kamran Power Control, in Chembur. Wi-Fi networks were used to avoid easy detection.
The accused have been charged with waging war against the country under the Indian Penal Code, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and MCOCA.