In a startling revelation, the Mumbai police said on Monday that Indian Mujahideen operative Mohammed Saddik Israr Ahmed Shaikh, held for his alleged role in the serial bomb blasts in various Indian cities earlier this year, was one of the two gunmen who had attacked the American Center in Kolkata on January 22, 2002.
Joint Police Commissioner (Crime) Rakesh Maria told mediapersons that Shaikh, hailing from Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, had opened fire from a Kalashnikov rifle at the American Center.
Nabbed from the Cheetah Camp area of north-east Mumbai, Shaikh had assumed the identity of "Sadaqat" at the time of the incident.
Shaikh (33), and 19 others were arrested at different times in September-October from various locations around the country. They are all in police custody.
Among the four arrested in the first phase of crackdown by the police Sept 24, Shaikh was employed as a programme engineer with an electronics company in the city.
He had attended terror training camps in Pakistan twice - once for nine months and the second time for one-and-half months, police said.
The remaining IM activists or their accomplices in the serial blasts were nabbed in October.
The dawn attack on the American Center, when the guard duty was being changed, had left five policemen dead and injured 20.
No consular staff or US nationals were injured when four people draped in shawls came on speeding motorcycles and sprayed bullets at the guards. The operation was completed in less than five minutes before the terrorists escaped from the scene.
Later, two Islamic groups, including the Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islam (HuJI) based in Bangaldesh, had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Shaikh's role has also come to light in the July 11, 2006 serial blasts in Mumbai's suburban trains, police said. He was one of the key IM persons in direct touch with Pakistan-based Roshan Khan and Amir Raza.
Shaikh, along with absconder Riyaz Bhatkal, alias Roshan Khan and another Pakistani - Atif - are believed to be the main founders of the IM around 2005. The police have said that IM played a central role in the recent serial blasts in different parts of the country and was also involved in almost all blasts in the country in the past four years.