'Damascus friends' will help me get out of jail: Bhatkal

  • Prawesh Lama, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 04, 2015 17:07 IST

Jailed Indian Mujahideen (IM) leader Yasin Bhatkal called his wife with a mobile phone from a high-security prison in Hyderabad and spoke of getting out of captivity with the help of “friends from Damascus”, according to central intelligence agencies.

The intelligence agencies believe the mention of Damascus is a reference to the Islamic State, which has a strong presence in Syria.

The founder of the IM, who was involved in several bombings across the country, is currently being held in a high-security cell in Cherlapally central prison on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

Sources said Bhatkal had made at least 10 calls to his wife. The recorded conversations were submitted to senior officials of the Intelligence Bureau.

In one intercepted conversation, Bhatkal was heard talking to his wife Zahida in southeast Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, assuring her he would be out of prison very soon with the help of his “friends from Damascus”.

During the call made with a cell phone from inside the jail in Hyderabad, Bhatkal is heard telling his wife, “Allah Tale ke marzi se jaldi hi nikal jaunga, mein nikal jaunga mere Damascus wale dosto ke maddat se. Phir nikal ne ke baad, hum jaldi hi Damascus pahuchenga. (By the grace of Allah, I will be out of jail very soon with the help of my friends from Damascus. After that we will reach Damascus very soon.)”

The conversation was a chilling reminder to sleuths of their suspicions that the Islamic State (IS) has made its way into the country. The IS has recruited several Indians in the past by luring them through social media networks.

Sources said the IB informed officials in the Hyderabad jail after eavesdropping on all of Bhatkal’s conversations. They said Bhatkal had also made numerous calls to numbers across several states but could not talk to the people he called.

There have been several instances in the past of mobile phones, SIM cards and pen drives being recovered from prisoners at Cherlapally jail.

Telangana’s director general (prisons and correctional services) said: “It is true that there were some incidents before but it cannot have occurred now. We have stepped up vigil and have sanitised the premises to prohibit such an incident. A phone call from the high security cell where Bhatkal is lodged is just not possible.”

But he said the possibility of calls being made when Bhatkal is taken to court could not be ruled out because prisoners are not under his custody at that time.

Bhatkal left his wife just days after marrying her in 2008 but has continued to be in touch with her. In August 2013, IB officials first tracked his movements after learning that he had delivered Rs 1 lakh and a cell phone to his wife through his associate Tehseen Aktar alias Monu.

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