Police interrogate Bhatkal aide in Ambani threat case
A special cell team of Delhi police on Saturday interrogated Tehsin Akhtar, the last known chief of the now dormant homegrown terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM), after two smartphones were recovered from his barrack in Tihar’s jail number 8, one of which reportedly sent out a message that claimed responsibility for the explosives found in the SUV outside Mukesh Ambani’s residence on February 25.
The police on Friday sought a city court’s permission to question Akhtar – a 30-year-old civil engineer from Darbangha, Bihar, and a known close associate of arrested IM co-founder Yasin Bhatkal – who is known to authorities as being both tech-savvy and an expert in making bombs.
“Special cell officers are interrogating Tehsin Akhtar. We had handed them the phones on Thursday [March 11] night. They came in the afternoon [of March 13] and are still inside,” a prison officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity said late Saturday night.
A Telegram channel was created by “jaishulhind” [Jaish-ul-Hind] on February 26 and a message claiming responsibility for parking the vehicle outside Antilia, where Ambani lives with his family, was posted from that channel.
The identity of the members is not immediately known as the maker of the channel closed the group the following day.
The National Investigation Authority (NIA) is investigating the explosives found outside Ambani’s house after the Union home ministry took suo motu notice of the case.
During the course of its investigation, the agency discovered the Telegram message and traced it to Tihar jail. The Delhi police’s special cell was informed that two phones – an Oppo and a Vivo; both smartphones – were active inside the prison. At 8pm on March 11, Tihar prison authorities conducted a raid inside jail number 8 and found both phones.
Police are investigating whether Akhtar was involved in making the Telegram channel, as he is not the only one lodged inside the high risk cell of jail number 8.
Akhtar was the “operational chief” of IM when he was arrested in 2014 from Naxalbari in West Bengal, police said. He is reported to be in touch with other IM co-founders, Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, who are believed to be hiding in Pakistan. He is implicated in a number of blasts, including one that took place during Narendra Modi’s rally in 2013 in Patna, as well as the 2011 Mumbai blasts at Zaveri Bazari and Opera House.
“[Akhtar] seems to have a role in recovery of mobile phones from Tihar but one thing is for sure that there is no terror outfit named Jaish-ul-Hind on the ground. It’s most likely that somebody has played mischief or old Indian Mujahideen (IM) members are trying to be in limelight by claiming to be somebody else.,” said a Delhi Police officer.
NIA arrests Vaze
The NIA arrested Sachin Vaze, an assistant police inspector with the Crime Intelligence Unit of the Mumbai crime branch till last week, late on Saturday, hours after the central agency recorded his statement in relation to its probe.
Vaze was the lead investigator in the explosives case before it was transferred to the Anti Terrorism Squad, and later the NIA.
Earlier in the day, Vaze’s statement was recorded to understand the sequence of events as he was initially heading the probe in Scorpio case as well his connection with Mansukh Hiran who was linked to the vehicle.
Vaze is also under the scanner of the ATS for his involvement in the suspicious death of Mansukh Hiran, a 48-year-old Thane-based businessman linked to the Scorpio carrying explosives found parked outside Ambani’s house.
He was transferred last week after leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis demanded his arrest in connection with Hiran’s death, after Hiran’s wife Vimla told the ATS that she suspected Vaze had a hand in her husband’s death.
Vaze, who filed for anticipatory bail on Friday, was denied interim protection by the Thane District and Sessions Court on Saturday which stated that “custodial interrogation is necessary” was necessary in the investigation.