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‘I searched Taj for unsafe wi-fi links’

Iqbal, the amir or chief of the Indian Mujahideen, instructed Peerbhoy to do his recees only on Saturdays, but did not explain why, reports Presley Thomas.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2009 01:37 IST
Presley Thomas
Presley Thomas
Hindustan Times

Months before Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operatives opened fire at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and laid siege to Colaba’s Taj Mahal hotel, Mohammed Mansoor Asghar Peerbhoy — the 31-year-old software engineer said to be the chief of terror group Indian Mujahideen’s media wing — had conducted reconnaissance operations at both locations, looking for unsecured wi-fi connections to send out his terror e-mails.

These e-mails were sent out immediately after each series of blasts carried out by the outfit in different parts of the country.

“[IM founder] Iqbal Bhatkal also told us to find out where in Mumbai wireless Internet connections were available,” Peerbhoy has allegedly told the Crime Branch, which is scheduled to file a chargesheet against him and 20 others on Tuesday.

Iqbal, the amir or chief of the Indian Mujahideen, instructed Peerbhoy to do his recees only on Saturdays, but did not explain why.

“Every Saturday in June, we would travel to Mumbai from Pune to search for wireless networks. We found them in the Taj hotel (Colaba), CST, Chembur and Khalsa College at Matunga. To seek them out, we used Mubin Sheikh’s HCL laptop, and my own personal [wi-fi-enabled] iPod Touch,” Peerbhoy has allegedly told investigators.

When Iqbal’s younger brother Riyaz, another top IM leader, found out they were using their personal equipment, he ordered them to stop and but wi-fi enabled devices locally, so they could not be traced to the group.

Peerbhoy and fellow operative Mubin accordingly bought a new laptop and iPod Touch from the Heera Panna shopping complex at Haji Ali and Lamington Road respectively.

“On our return journey to Pune, we searched for a wireless network near Navi Mumbai and found one in Sanpada (belonging to US national Kenneth Haywood),” Peerbhoy has allegedly revealed.

Haywood’s Internet connection was used to send a terror e-mail minutes before Ahmedabad blasts, in which 57 people were killed.

Peerbhoy, in his statement, has however said that Iqbal told him Uttar Pradesh mufti (Islamic scholar) Abu Bashar was not involved in the serial blasts of July 26.

Two weeks after the explosions, the Gujarat police had arrested Bashar for masterminding the terror strike.

Peerbhoy has allegedly told the Mumbai Crime Branch that all operations for those blasts were planned and carried out by Iqbal and Riyaz.

“On July 20 or 21, I met Iqbal at an apartment in Pune. He told me blasts were going to happen in Gujarat on July 26. He also asked us start preparing the e-mail,” Peerbhoy has allegedly told investigators.

Peerbhoy said Iqbal dictated the entire message, which was sent five minutes before the blasts.

“It was Iqbal idea to sneer at the authorities in the e-mail and ask them to stop the blasts if they could,” said Peerbhoy.

Mubeen created the logo for the IM with images downloaded from the Internet, Peerbhoy has said. The former also created the video uploaded onto YouTube, using the same text and software solution Windows MovieMaker.

“The message was ready on July 25, 2008,” Peerbhoy said.

First Published: Feb 17, 2009 01:34 IST