A Mumbai court Tuesday remanded Abdul Samad Bhatkal, the prime suspect in the Feb 13 German Bakery bombing in Pune that killed 17 people, to police custody till June 1 in an arms case. Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) said his arrest could give leads to the conspiracy and other perpetrators of the blast.
Exactly 100 days after the Pune blast, the Maharashtra ATS succeeded in apprehending Bhatkal, 23, at Mangalore's Bajpe International Airport in Karnataka on Monday after he arrived on a flight from Dubai. He was produced before a metropolitan magistrate in Mazagaon on Tuesday afternoon.
ATS sources in Mumbai and Pune term his arrest a significant breakthrough and say it could lead the police to the larger ramifications of the entire conspiracy and the real perpetrators behind the blast in the German Bakery that also left nearly 60 injured.
Seeking his remand in court, the Maharashtra ATS said that in August last year, police had seized a cache of illegal arms and arrested three people in Byculla, south Mumbai. The ATS claims that Bhatkal had supplied the illegal arms consignment.
In the second half of 2008, Bhatkal had been detained by Mangalore police for suspected involvement in the July 2008 Bangalore blasts case. But he was let off for insufficient evidence against him and he subsequently went to Dubai.
Bhatkal, an Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative, is suspected of having planted the bomb which ripped through the German Bakery, killing 17 people, including foreigners.
A resident of Bhatkal town in Karnataka's North Kanara district, he is believed to be a close associate of IM founders Riyaz Bhatkal and Iqbal Bhatkal.
Said to be a contract killer, Bhatkal is also expected to throw more light on the Pune blast and other terror acts elsewhere in the country.
Earlier in Delhi, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram confirmed Bhatkal's arrest and said that Pune police and Maharashtra ATS have succeeded in identifying and nabbing the prime suspect in the Pune blast.
He also complimented the investigative agencies for apprehending the prime suspect within 100 days of the incident.