Himayat Baig, the 33-year-old school teacher sentenced to hang for his suspected role in the 2010 German Bakery blast in Pune, may have cause to hope for a reprieve.
Captured Indian Mujahideen lynchpin Yasin Bhatkal, currently being grilled by Indian sleuths, has admitted responsibility for the bombing and named another individual as his accomplice.
Senior government sources told HT that Bhatkal had identified Darbhanga resident Mohammed Qateel Siddiqui as his fellow-conspirator, saying they wanted to target the foreigner “Jews” frequenting the bakery in the tony Koregaon Park area of Pune.
Qateel, murdered in Yerwada prison in June 2012, was also apparently planning to blow up the Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati Temple in Pune the same day, but his plans came unstuck.
Bhatkal is learnt to have said that Himayat, and two of the other four accused persons - Fayyaz Kagzi and Abu Jundal - had nothing to do with the bakery blast. But he confirmed that the notorious Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal were the masterminds.
While Jundal is in Indian custody, Kagzi is thought to be in Saudi Arabia and the two Bhatkals, who are not related to Yasin, in Karachi. The blast at the bakery killed 17 people, including Iranian, Yemeni and German nationals.
While Yasin Bhatkal, arrested in Nepal last week, has shown no sign of remorse, Baig presented a very different picture after his sentencing by a Pune court in April. He had wept and fainted as the death sentence was pronounced.
"If 17 innocent persons died on the day of blast, I am the 18th innocent victim today. I had come to Pune on January 31, 2010 to seek reservations for Muslims.I am a poor man,” he had said later.
Bhatkal’s confession could lead to reopening of the case and ultimately, even to freedom for Baig, whose conviction counter-terror operatives in Delhi have privately termed "unfortunate".
The sources said the instructions to target foreigners and the Ganpati temple were given by IM co-founder Riyaz Bhatkal, who arranged for ammonium nitrate from Rajasthan through a courier.
Yasin Bhatkal told his interrogators that while he went to German Bakery to plant a bomb, Qateel took another device to the Dagdusheth temple at Budhwar Peth in Pune.
However, there was large crowd at the temple due to a festival on the day, February 13, as a result of which he could not gain entry with his backpack containing the bomb.
Qateel tried to leave the device with a flower shop outside the famous temple but the owner refused. According to Yasin Bhatkal, Qateel defused the device by removing the batteries and then took it all the way to Mumbai to dump it in the Arabian Sea.
Yasin Bhatkal was trained in an Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) camp in Baluchistan in 2005 for nearly 50 days and has now admitted to blasts that caused the deaths of more than 400 Indians, the sources said.