He was a soft-spoken polite boy, known to his friends, family and police authorities as Zabi. However, a car chase with the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on May 9, 2006 altered Zabi’s reputation.The ATS recovered a record haul of 43 kg of RDX, 16AK-47 rifles and nearly 4,000 rounds of ammunition. It arrested 17 of Zabi’s friends and accomplices.
The next time the country’s intelligence machinery heard of Zabi, he was instructing the terrorists holed up at Chabad house during 26/11 terror attack. Two years changed Zabiuddin Ansari into Abu Jundal, a man who loathed the system and who sought revenge.
‘A good example is the Sachar committee. The government guarantees us a lot, but the administration arrests young Muslim boys...The government must know that this is just a trailer, the real movie is yet to come,’ is what Jundal directed Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives to note down and convey to the media as the Mumbai 26/11 terrorist attack unfolded.
For those in the intelligence machinery who knew Zabi, this came as a jolt. Born on November 13, 1981 to an insurance agent in a small village of Gevrai in Beed district, Zabiuddin enrolled into an electrical course at the Indian Technical Institute in Beed after passing his standard ten examinations.
He initially worked with an electrical contractor, and had met with a host of people, including policemen in Beed. His proximity to them landed him a contract to do conduct electrical repairs at the District Superintendent of Police’s refurbished office in 2004.
Little did sleuths know that the Gujarat 2002 riots had adversely affected Zabiuddin, and that certain members of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) had induced the soft -spoken boy into the world of terrorism. Zabiuddin, police sources said, did not find a gateway into terrorism, until Maulana Mohammed Amir Sheikh, an acquaintance and a SIMI activist, introduced him to LeT operative Mohammed Aslam Khalid Sardana alias Aslam Kashmiri in 2005.
Between 1995-’96 Sheikh and Kashmiri studied together at the Dar-ul-Uloom Falah-e-Darain at Tarkeshwar, in Gujarat. Sheikh’s stint at the seminary was cut short due to an illness. However, Kashmiri had considerably influenced Sheikh with his radical thoughts. Though his father admonished him for a change in his attitude towards traditional religious beliefs, he continued to secretly attend SIMI meetings.
Soon after the Gujarat riots, Sheikh met Kashmiri at the seminary’s annual convocation ceremony in Gujarat, many years later. There, Kashmiri asking Sheikh if there were any means of undertaking LeT training.
Sheikh knew Zabiuddin Ansari, Fayyaz Kagzi, Nisar Ansari and Azhar Ansari as regular SIMI meeting attendees, and introduced Kashmiri to them. Kashmiri induced the three young men to undertake training at a LeT camp near Poonch. One of them was killed in an encounter in Kashmir.
Later, Kashmiri induced Zabiuddin and Fayaaz Kagzi to undergo the training, and went to Kathmandu in Nepal. A LeT operative, Rehaan, trained Zabiuddin, and his now-wanted accomplice Kagzi in the use of arms and explosives, and asked him to show results. On February 19, 2006, Zabiuddin and Kagzi planted an improvised explosive device at the Ahmedabad railway station. The bomb went off at 1.43 am injuring 25 people.
However, it was only once arrests were made in the Aurangabad arms haul case that the role of Zabiuddin in the blast came up. Zabiuddin had traveled to Bangladesh, and from there, made his way to Pakistan where LeT’s operational commander Muzzamil Bhat identified him as an asset.