While the security agencies spoke Greek to each other during the probe into last year’s July 13 triple blasts in the city, which allegedly led to mastermind Yasin Bhatkal and two bomb planters slipping away from right under their nose at Habib building in Byculla, the terror groups they have been chasing are not only well-networked, but have also been sharing vital resources amongst themselves since as far back as 2001, investigators questioning top Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Haroon Rashid Naik have found.
An officer of the state’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS) said that IM has managed to strike a strong rapport with terror groups based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and some of its leaders have direct links with Lashkar-e-Tobia (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed and even Al-Qaeda to an extent.
Such is the interconnect between these outfits that they have not only been sharing military training and are teaching each other new techniques of preparing bombs and planting them, funds are also being jointly utilised through hawala networks, the official said.
“We have known for long that LeT has been training terrorists from all over, but it was surprising to learn that Haroon had access even to Al-Qaeda,” the officer said.
Naik has reportedly told the ATS that he went to Pakistan in 2000-2001 and was sent by Riyaz Bhatkal, another top IM operative. Since then, he kept in touch with Aftab Ansari, who was involved in the attack on American Centre in Kolkata in 2002, and also with Omar Sheikh, a 9/11 conspirator who earlier kidnapped British tourists in mid-90s and was released during the hostage exchange of IC 814 in Kandahar in December 1999.
During his training, Naik met slain Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden and LeT’s head of operations Zaki-ur-Rehman Laqvi who is wanted in India for masterminding the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, as well as top LeT commander Azam Cheema, the ATS officer said.
The officer also pointed out that though some of the earlier blasts in the city were retaliatory — the 1993 serial blasts were executed to avenge the Mumbai riots and the 2006 train blasts were in retaliation to the riots in Gujarat — no such motive is yet evident in the July 13 blasts.
“It is clear that the blasts targeted flourishing business hubs in the city. Some of the key IM leaders, along with Naik, sent a message to Bhatkal and others asking them to do something in Mumbai as the city had been quiet for long. The ground operatives thereafter selected targets and executed the blasts,” the officer said.