Mohammed Tahseen Akhtar, the prime suspect in the Patna serial blasts, would have been in police custody had the report of the arrest of Indian Mujahideen mastermind Yasin Bhatkal not leaked to the media.
Akhtar, also known as Monu, is believed to be a committed 23-year-old terrorist, having worked closely with Bhatkal and dislikes the control Pakistan’s spy agency ISI wields on the terror outfit.
Investigators missed him by a few hours when Akhtar and his Pakistani associate Waqas slipped out of a flat in Zephyr Heights Apartments in Mangalore, Karnataka as soon as Bhatkal’s arrest flashed across news channels.
“Just a few days before the Patna blasts he was in Ranchi. Earlier, he was sighted in Pushkar, Rajasthan. It is believed he worked as tourist guide at historical sites and conducted a thorough reconnaissance of the place. He is also tech-savvy,” a senior intelligence official told HT, requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
In fact, it is Bhatkal who told his interrogators that Akhtar had emerged as the “operational head” of the IM. He is believed to be directly in touch with the Karachi-based IM founder Riyaz Bhatkal.
Indian intelligence officials also believe that Akhtar was upset with the ISI and advocated a closer link to al Qaeda. Originally a resident of Maniarpur village in Samastipur district of Bihar, he has been identified by suspect Mohammad Imtiaz Ansari in the Patna blasts case.
Akhtar was recruited by Bhatkal who was creating the Darbhanga module of the IM after the Delhi Police cracked the Azamgarh module.
On August 29, when the news of Bhatkal’s arrest broke, “Akhtar and Waqas were using the Mangalore flat since the twin blasts in Dilsukhnagar, Hyderabad. If Bhatkal’s arrest was not leaked to the media, Akhtar and Waqas would have been in custody,” the official said.
The NIA has promised a reward of Rs 10 lakh for information leading to him. “NIA teams are in Patna and Ranchi. I am also going to Patna on Tuesday to join my team,” director general Sharad Kumar told HT.