The Maharashtra police have claimed that Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operative Mirza Himayat Baig (29), arrested in Pune on Tuesday for his involvement in the German Bakery blast in that city in February, was also connected with a big arms haul in the state four years ago.
“Baig was a member of the module which was behind the bid to smuggle a huge quantity of arms in Aurangabad in 2006 which had been seized by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS),” Rakesh Maria, state ATS chief, told mediapersons in Mumbai on Wednesday.
In May 2006, the ATS had seized 43 kg of RDX, 16 AK-47 assault rifles, 3,200 rounds of ammunition and 50 hand grenades on the Nashik-Aurangabad highway. The police had arrested 17 persons and charged them under various sections of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act and the Indian Penal Code.
Mirza, who the police said headed the LeT’s Maharashtra module, escaped after the arms haul and got in touch with Akmal Choudhary, a member of Indian Mujahideen. Choudhary, who was arrested by the Mumbai Crime Branch in 2008, had introduced Baig to two men who helped provide him shelter while he was on the run.
A camaraderie developed between these men and Baig was instrumental in bringing about close coordination between the LeT and Indian Mujahideen, the police said.
Maria said Baig was an important catch as he was part of a huge module in the state with plans to carry out more attacks.
“Baig used to travel extensively in Maharashtra to recruit people,” said Ravindra Kadam, Additional Commissioner of Police (ATS). He said Baig had also joined the Kerala-based Popular Front of India (PFI).
He wanted to strengthen his position in PFI so that in case the police came after him, he could then mobilise support from this outfit. “But he was exposed before he could do that,” Kadam added.
The PFI was recently in the news for chopping off a lecturer’s hand in Kerala after accusing him of having set a question paper that insulted Islam.
Bakery owner ‘happy & satisfied’
Almost seven months after ATS cracked the German Bakery blast case, the owner of Pune’ famous haunt for decade Snehal Kharose said that she is “happy and satisfied” to hear the news. Kharose told HT: “I am satisfied that Police have finally cracked the case.
But they must ensure that blast victims gets justice by making the case full proof so that guilty will get maximum punishment.
According to Kharose, the Bakery is in the process of rebuilding and will take a month and half to be ready to be served to Puneites. “We have cleared all major hurdles and hope that German Bakery will start by October end”.
On the differences with Bakery manager, Kharose said that staff of the bakery will remain same so that test of bakery items remains same. Kharose has got Rs 14 lakh loan from government after German Bakery on North Main road at Koregaon park was tore apart by a powerful blast on February 13.
Yogesh Joshi, Pune