The arrest of 27-year-old Mohammed Qateel Siddiqui from Anand Vihar Bus Terminal in Delhi on November 22, 2011 had sparked a huge controversy. Until then, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) had claimed it had solved the German Bakery blast case with the arrest of Mirza Himayat Baig on September 7, 2010, and had even filed a charge sheet. Before Siddiqui’s arrest, nobody had suspected that another person, apart from Bhatkal and Baig, was involved in the plot.
But after his interrogation, the Maharashtra ATS claimed there were no anomalies between what Siddiqui had revealed to the Delhi police and what Baig had told them. ATS sources said Bhatkal had kept Siddiqui and Baig away from each other on purpose to ensure utmost secrecy and because the two belonged to different Indian Mujahideen modules.
“It is a common practice employed by Bhatkal and the core group of Indian Mujahideen. The top operatives ensure that the lower-rung cadres do not get to know of each other so that their plans remain largely unknown,” said a senior ATS officer, who did not wish to be named.
Bhatkal, according to the ATS, had meticulously worked on explosives with Baig – who belonged to the module headed by Abu Jundal and Fayyaz Kagzi – at his home at Udgir in Latur district. Bhatkal and Baig had met when the latter acted as a bridge between Jundal and the Bhatkal brothers after he met Akbar Choudhary, an arrested Indian Mujahideen operative, in 2005.
On the day of the blast, when they arrived in Pune, Bhatkal went to a rented room at Katraj and set the bomb’s timer. “Bhatkal told Siddiqui that the person who was to plant the bomb at German bakery had backed out, so he had to do it personally. He then asked Siddiqui to plant another bomb at Dagaduseth Halwai Ganapati Temple,” said the ATS officer.
Bhatkal then returned to Baig before planting the bomb at German Bakery. He planted it himself as Baig told him that there was chance of him being identified.
Siddiqui, meanwhile, went to the temple to plant the second bomb but abandoned the plan after a cigarette seller spotted him trying to drop off the suitcase and leave. The man asked Siddiqui to take his bag with him, said the ATS officer. Scared, Siddiqui removed the battery from the bomb and took a shared taxi to Mumbai. He got off at Dadar and went to Worli sea face, where he threw the suitcase into the sea.