When outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) general secretary Safdar Nagori was arrested in March 2008, he literally begged a request of his interrogators. Nagori pleaded that he be hanged for all the crimes he’s charged with but his SIMI friend Ehtesham Siddiqui, arrested by the Mumbai ATS for the deadly July 11, 2007, serial train blasts, should be freed as he was innocent.
Cut to April 19, 2013. Awarded death for the February 13, 2010, Pune German Bakery blast, SIMI activist Himayat Baig told the judge that the bombing had killed 17 persons but he had now become its 18th victim.
While top home ministry officials have made it known to the political leadership that Baig’s conviction is unfortunate, the activist was charged — along with Ahmed Zarar Siddibappa alias Yasin Bhatkal — by the Maharashtra ATS for engineering the blast.
Yasin was captured on a CCTV camera outside German Bakery, just as he and Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi are on the footage in the February 21, 2013, Dilsukhnagar blast in Hyderabad.
Before the state polices make a muddle of Yasin’s and Haddi’s revelations, the IB and NIA should use this opportunity to accurately solve the 2010 and 2012 Pune blasts. The agencies should get those found innocent, if any, released and remove the terror taint on so-called masterminds like SIMI activist Abdus Subhan Qureshi aka Tauqeer. Tauqeer has been in hiding ever since he came in touch with IM co-founder Riyaz Bhatkal to avenge Nagori’s arrest for the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts.
It is common knowledge among counter-terror operatives that Riyaz, now deceased Atif Ameen and the Azamgarh module were responsible for the 2005 Delhi Diwali blasts and 2011 Mumbai train blasts with RDX smuggled into India by Pakistan-trained couriers via Bangladesh. Yasin targeted Pune in August 2012 again when his friend Qateel Siddiqui was killed in Yerwada prison in June 2012.
The arrest of these top IM operatives, who have been trained after 26/11 in Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) camps in Pakistan at the behest of Riyaz and the ISI, also provides a huge opportunity to find out why Indians Muslins are getting so radicalised that they target their own country.
Even though Iqbal Bhatkal is the main ideologue behind the proscribed group, Yasin and Haddi can explain the anger among the Muslim youth and those within and across the border trying to poison their minds. It is for this very reason that the latest catches should be handled by counter-terror experts rather than media-savvy policemen who will probably ask them only about Dawood Ibrahim.
Yasin and Haddi provide a chance for redemption to the errant law enforcers.