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A bright son, now a terrorist

mumbai Updated: Sep 16, 2010 02:29 IST
Presley Thomas

When he was growing up in a dusty Beed bylane in Marathwada, Mirza Himayat Baig was his lower middle class family's sole ray of hope.

He wanted to pursue a bachelor's in arts, while his brothers, Tareq and Sohajab, did odd jobs to bring some money home.

Today, Baig's family is struggling to cope with allegations that its "brightest" son is the chief of terror group Lashkar-e-Tayyeba's Maharashtra unit and that he executed the blast at Pune's German Bakery on February 13, killing 17 people.

The Anti-Terrorism Squad, while interrogating the 30-year-old, has discovered how the Pakistan-based LeT, accused of planning the November 26, 2008, Mumbai attacks, recruits Indian youth.

The ATS has found that the LeT continues to target young and ambitious men from poor families, much like the 10 terrorists, who carried out the 26/11 attacks.

Born in Beed on January 3, 1980, Baig grew up watching his father wait tables at a small restaurant. Baig wanted to graduate but did not clear his first year exams. "He dropped out of college and in 2003 registered for a diploma in education from Azam Campus in Pune. He wanted to return to Beed and teach," an ATS officer said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

At the Azam Campus educational hub in the Pune Camp area, Baig had walked into the Let's hunting ground, ATS sources said. Beed resident Syed Zabiuddin Ansari, the Indian name behind the 26/11 attacks, ensured Baig fit in with some help from Fayaz Kagzi.

Baig was not directly involved in any anti-national activities while studying at Azam Campus but was known to those accused in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case. Most of them visited the campus often.

"Himayat worked in a library and at a bookstall to fund his studies. But his inclination towards academics changed when he completed the course," said the officer.

Baig got sucked into the LeT module Ansari and Kagzi built. Around the same time, Akbar Chowdhury, the alleged Indian Mujahideen recruiter, saw him at the bookstall where he worked and introduced him to IM founder Iqbal Bhatkal.

When the Maharashtra police began hunting for the accused in the Aurangabad arms haul case, Baig went underground. He later emerged as a key LeT operative.

Baig, with money from Kagzi, lived under fake identities for three years. In January 2010, Baig was asked to survey potential targets in Pune.

He studied German Bakery minutely and accompanied IM founder Yasin Bhatkal there on the day of the blast, ATS sources said. The ATS officer said Baig helped Bhatkal find the right table to leave the bag of explosives under.

This was the first time Baig had actively participated in an act of terror.