Yasin Bhatkal, the mastermind of the 13/7 Mumbai blasts, might have succeeded in evading the police, but he remains in India, officials of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) said on Monday.
Yasin, who is now the operational chief of Indian Mujahideen (IM) for India, scouts, recruits and trains operatives for the terror outfit, ATS sources said.
He reportedly shifted recruitment operations to Bihar after Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Delhi stepped up vigil following the arrest of 21 IM members in September 2008.
“It was very difficult for key IM operatives to stay in and recruit people from any of these locations. That is why Yasin and Iqbal Bhatkal chose Bihar. They stay in districts very close to the Nepal border,” said an ATS officer on condition of anonymity.
Two other 13/7 accused, Waqqas and Tabrez, who have been identified as the persons who planted the bomb at Zaveri Bazaar and Opera House, are also absconding.
The duo was part of a very new module scouted and prepared by Yasin and his brother Iqbal Bhatkal, ATS sources said. Yasin had allegedly recruited the two in Bihar.
According to the ATS, Waqqas and Tabrez were staying in the Habib building house that was zeroed-in by Yasin Bhatkal to assemble the improvised explosive device (IED) used in the blasts.
“The two planters continued to live in the house even after the blasts. But fled on November 26, 2011 as soon as they learnt about the arrest of six Indian Mujahideen operatives from various parts of the country,” an ATS officer said on condition of anonymity.
Naquee Ahmed Sheikh’s role
The spare key of a scooter— which was originally sought to be used as a bomb-carrier for one of the three blasts in Mumbai on July 13, 2011, in Opera House — was recovered from arrested accused Naquee Ahmed Sheikh by the Maharashtra police. The explosives however could not be planted on the scooter.
Rubina Qureshi has confirmed to the Maharashtra police that Naquee had met her, along with the 13/7 Mumbai blasts’s alleged mastermind Indian Mujahideen’s Yasin Bhatkal, early in 2011 to rent her apartment in Byculla in Mumbai and made the payment for it. The flat was allegedly used by Bhatkal and two bomb-planters, Tabrez and Waqas, to execute the blasts. Waqas was to collect the deposit from Qureshi on January 15 this year but did not.
The Darbhanga police have seized two two-wheelers at the instance of Naquee that were suspected to have been kept for use for future terror strikes by the IM.
“Naquee was aware of Yasin Bhatkal’s terror antecedents and knew of the Mumbai blasts’ plan. But he did not divulge this to the Delhi police,” said the source.