Before the special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court convicted 12 of the 13 arrested accused, there always remained a doubt on the investigations carried out into the July 11, 2006, serial blasts in Mumbai suburban trains.
The Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) that had investigated, arrested the 13 accused and filed a chargesheet into the case on November 29, 2006, was in for a rude shock when Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder Mohamed Sadiq Israr Shaikh told the investigators in Mumbai and Gujarat that the serial train blasts was carried out by him and five other IM operatives.
Sadiq was among the 22 IM operatives, who carried out blasts across the country since 2005, and was arrested by the Mumbai crime branch in September 2008. In his confession videotapes, which were made available to Hindustan Times, Sadiq unraveled a simplistic plot to execute the blasts. His confession refuted the ATS’s long-winding plot that ran through the porous borders of India and claimed of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives’ association with their Indian counterparts to execute the blasts.
Sadiq stated that the planning for the Mumbai blasts started soon after the blasts at Varanasi railway station. It was Aatif, who initiated the planning, and asked Sadiq to conduct a series of bomb blasts in Mumbai while they were in their hideout at Saraimir in Uttar Pradesh.
Sadiq also said that he, along with Aatif, had planned to plant the bombs in the first class compartments of the Western Railway suburban trains. He conveyed the plan to Dr Shahnawaz, the brother of Mohammed Saif, who arrested in the Batla House encounter, and Abu Rashid, who used to live Mumbai. Abu Rashid was asked to rent a flat. Accordingly, a flat was rented at Sewri, said Sadiq.
The scene at a blast site. (HT file photo)
Aatif contacted Mohammed Sajid, who used to stay in Andheri, to join their plot. Sajid was also killed in the Batla House encounter.
The duo had then contacted Amir Raza to arrange for the explosives. Amir Raza through Riyaz Bhatkal had arranged for nearly 35 to 37 kg of explosives that Aatif fetched from Mangalore.
Explaining the method on how the bombs were assembled, Sadiq said that the bombs were made at the rented Sewri flat. Later the group procured seven five-kg pressure cookers and bags to transport the bombs.
Over a period of one a month, the group conducted recces to study and ascertain the movement of peak-hour traffic and escape routes. They also bought suburban train monthly passes, added Sadiq. On 26 November, 2006, five operatives went to Dadar suburban railway station from Sewri by taxi and boarded a train to Churchgate at around 4pm. The timers of the bombs were fixed at 6.30pm and they were activated at 2pm. Aatif and Dr Shahnawaz were given two bags each, while Sadiq, Abu Rashid and Sajid carried one bag each, added Sadiq.
But with seven bombs to be placed, Sadiq volunteered to place three bombs. Shahnawaz, Aatif and Abu Rashid placed a bomb each and got down at Dadar. They then went to their Sewri by taxi, while Sajid got down at Bandra.
Sadiq, meanwhile, boarded a train from Churchgate, placed a bomb and got off at Marine Lines and repeated this with the second bomb. After placing the third bomb, he too got off at Dadar and headed for Sewri.
In February 2009, the ATS took Sadiq’s custody from the Mumbai crime branch to question his involvement, but had discharged him. Advocates of the 13 accused then called Sadiq as a witness before the court, but he turned hostile stating his statement was recorded by police officials under duress.
Sadiq’s claim has also been substantiated by Yasin Bhatkal, the chief operational commander of IM, who was arrested in a covert operation from Nepal in August 2013. However, Yasin’s claim has not been substantiated.