NIA sleuths quizzing terror accused Yasin Bhatkal and key henchman Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, aka Tabrez, have learned that Waqas, a Pakistani national, had also been a key player in all major serial blasts across the country over the past three years.
The agency would soon release sketches of the Pakistani national and announce a reward for any information on him.
Over the course of their grilling sessions with Bhatkal and his aide, the sleuths picked up vital leads on Waqas and learned that he had been a key hand in the Mumbai serial blasts on July 13, 2011, the Pune explosion on August 1, 2012 and the Hyderabad blast on February 21, 2013.
Explosives went off at Zaveri Bazar, Dadar and near the Mumbai Opera House within minutes of each other, leaving 27 dead and another 127 critically injured.
Akhtar said barely days before the explosions, he along with Waqas rented a flat at the Byculla Habib Building in Mumbai.
They camped indoors and developed the explosives. Bhatkal was also a fellow lodger at the time, said sources.
Again, in the days leading up to the serial blasts that shook Pune’s Junglee Maharaj Road, the trio rented a flat in the Kasarwadi area and picked up aliases.
“I went around as Shaqir and Waqas took the name Ahmed,” Akhtar reportedly told the NIA officers.
Sources quoting the NIA sleuths said Waqas is adept at developing explosives and also has expertise in manufacturing circuits for setting bombs.
The names Waqas and Tabrez came up in the wake of the Pune blast in August 2012.
The names first surfaced in January when sleuths from Delhi Police’s special cell were camping in Mumbai to nab the duo. However, before the sleuths could close in on them, they got away.
The escape was blamed on an alleged information leak by the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra and testified to a lack of coordination between top security agencies in fighting terror.
The ATS sleuths later picked up Naquee Ahmed, a member of the Mumbai terror module, who had reportedly been helping the Delhi Police nab terrorists at the time.
Delhi Police also picked up leads on Tabrez and Waqas after apprehending Asad Khan, Imran Khan and Firoz in connection with the Pune blasts.
The trio reportedly owned up to the Pune outrage and said Waqas and Tabrez had been sent by Bhatkal to help them arrange the explosives.
They said they had been under strict orders from Bhatkal to not ask too many questions about Tabrez and that they knew them as Shaqir and Ahmed.