Residents of Habib Building near Palace cinema in Byculla were shocked to learn on Monday morning that Yasin Bhatkal, alias Shahrukh, the man who orchestrated the July 13, 2011 blasts in Mumbai, used to frequently visit their building.
According to investigators probing the 13/7 blasts, Bhatkal would often visit his two accomplices, Tabrez and Waqar, who had rented room no 53, located on the third floor of the building.
Police suspect that the two men are Pakistani nationals, who played a key role in the blasts. The owner of the room is Rubina, a widow, and the lease was brokered by an estate agent named Sultan Khan, who lives on the second floor of the same building.
Khan said the two men told him they were from Patna. "They came here 11 months ago through a person called Islam Qureshi from Madanpura. Hence I introduced them to Rubina," he said.
"The rent was fixed at Rs8,000 per month, along with a deposit of Rs1 lakh. They told us they were working in a call centre, and a fair man similar to Yasin used to visit them," Khan said. He claimed he last saw them on January 1, 2012, when they left saying their mother was not keeping well.
Ironically, the building is located barely half a kilometre away from the head office of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).
A resident of Habib building said: "The duo wore modern clothes and looked normal. There was nothing to suggest that they could be terrorists."
Room number 53, which the duo rented, is a small 100-150 square feet room on the third floor of the building, which is more than 50 years old.
The room is currently locked. An old woman staying in the room opposite said the residents of the room used to keep to themselves and never spoke to anyone. "Only two people used to stay here," she said.
However, Malik Khan, another neighbour, said three men used to live in the room. "Since Sultanbhai had brought them, no one thought they were anti-nationals or that there would be any reason to verify their credentials," he said. "They kept to themselves and never mixed with others even during festivals," he added.
ATS chief Rakesh Maria could not be reached for comments because his mobile phone remained switched off throughout the day.