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Tracking terror the old way

The crime Branch’s resounding success in busting a major chunk of terror outfit IM network is a classic example of the success of the rudimentary technique of intelligence gathering, over the new technology-driven methods.

india Updated: Oct 08, 2008 00:30 IST
Debasish Panigrahi

The crime Branch’s resounding success in busting a major chunk of terror outfit Indian Mujahideen’s (IM) network is a classic example of the success of the rudimentary technique of intelligence gathering — human intelligence — over the new technology-driven methods.

“The operation was based on information gathered through human intelligence,” Joint Commissioner of Police Rakesh Maria told HT on Tuesday.

Soon after the Ahmedabad blasts of July 26, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) started tracking the sender of the IM terror e-mails sent to media houses. The ATS, with help of cyber experts, traced it to Gunaina Apartments in Navi Mumbai and picked up tenant US national Kenneth Haywood for questioning.

But the IM continued to send terror e-mails by hacking into wi-fi systems of Khalsa College and a Chembur firm — prior to the New Delhi blasts. And the technology-driven intelligence could do little in tracing the sender of the e-mails.

On the other hand, the Crime Branch concentrated on nabbing the car thieves after it was revealed that the vehicles used to plant bombs in Surat and Ahmedabad had been stolen from Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.

It learnt that car thief Afzal Usmani had been arrested by the Vile Parle police on August 15.

During interrogation, he allegedly admitted to stealing the Wagon R in which a bomb failed to explode in Surat. This strengthened the suspicion about his links with the Ahmedabad blasts. Even as his inquiry was in progress, terror struck New Delhi on September 13.

“He was shown the e-mails sent by IM before Ahmedabad and New Delhi blasts and he recognised them,” a Crime Branch official said, requesting anonymity.

And then Afzal began to sing. He bared his connections with Mohammad Sadiq Sheikh, the alleged co-founder of IM and four others, including Riyaz Batkal. Four of them were subsequently arrested in Pune on September 24.

During interrogation, Sadiq allegedly revealed information about the IM’s media cell, headed by Mohammad Mansoor Peerbhoy (31), a principal software engineer at Yahoo India in Pune. Also, Mumbra-based Mohammad Badruddin Sheikh revealed he had assembled bombs — the unexploded ones planted in Surat — in a flat at Ashoka Mews Apartments in Pune for five consecutive days.

This helped the Crime Branch nab the entire IM media cell and solve the mystery of the terror e-mails. Based on information from Sadiq, it tracked Bhatkal’s aides in Udupi and Manglore districts of Karnataka.