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Nipped in the bud before Navratri
- Killed twin-blasts suspect was scouting for chance to strike, say police

Mumbai, Sept. 13: After personally supervising the assembling of the bombs that set off the twin blasts on August 25, Nissar kept roaming the streets in Mumbai, endangering his life, because there were other blasts to mastermind.

He was a member of the Lashkar-e-Toiba militant group, police commissioner R.S. Sharma said.

After shooting him dead in an encounter last night, police raided a flat in Nayanagar in the distant northern suburb of Mira Road to recover 215 gelatine sticks, 20 detonators, 199 empty caps of detonators, 17 alarm clocks and some incriminating documents.

The blasts were planned for 9/11 and Navratri, the police said.

Sharma said a hunt was on for Zahid Pathani, Nissar’s associate. He said there could be more modules like the one Nissar trained — Hanif Sayeed, his wife and daughter, and Ashrat Ansari, the four arrested for the blasts. Nissar was looking out for an opportunity to strike, the police said.

It was not very clear if Nissar, whose real name was Abdul Rehman, was staying at the Mira Road flat all the while. “He may have been going all around the city,” said deputy commissioner of police Pradeep Sawant.

“Yesterday, we laid a trap for him after a tip-off. We had identified him with our information. We asked him to surrender. They opened fire and we retaliated,” he said.

One of the key persons in the Lashkar network in the country, Nissar was about 30 years old and a resident of Mumbai till 1996, Sawant said.

“He used to live in Ghatkopar with his family and went to school in the city. But he left for Dubai in 1996 when his family also moved to Hyderabad,” he said.

The police sent their teams to Hyderabad to track down Nissar’s family members. His mother lives there. One of his brothers is in Saudi Arabia. His father, a Yemeni national, is dead.

Sawant said Nissar came in touch with the Lashkar leaders in Dubai and was indoctrinated into terror. He would shuttle between Dubai and Mumbai.

After the Gujarat riots, in September 2002, he came to Mumbai and introduced Sayeed and Ansari to each other.

The Gujarat Revenge Force, whose other members the police are looking out for, was then founded by Nissar to avenge the killing of Muslims in the state.

Nissar’s main role was providing the revenge force — which included Sayeed, his wife Fahmida and their daughter Farheen, Ansari — with the explosives and the training to work with bombs.

They were also responsible for the Ghatkopar blasts and for placing a bomb in a bus in Andheri on December 2. The bomb was defused.

“Nissar would get most of the explosives from Hyderabad. But this time he got them from Uttar Pradesh,” said assistant police commissioner Shankar Kamble. He said the explosives bore the mark of Bharat Explosives Limited, Lalitpur, Uttar Pradesh.

Kamble said the explosives are easily available to anybody at any quarry site, where casual labourers sell the surplus stock illegally.

“But they are expensive in Mumbai, so Nissar got them from Hyderabad and other places. He used to get them in consignments.”

Last night, 92 gelatine sticks, eight detonators, two alarm clocks and documents relating to the Gujarat Muslim Revenge Force were recovered from the car Nissar and his unidentified associate, who was also killed, were travelling in.

The car, a blue Maruti 800 with a Delhi number, is likely to have been stolen from Matunga in central Mumbai, where the shootout took place around 10.30 pm.

Police said that though Nissar was the key person in the blast probe so far, the investigations would not suffer because of his death.

“There are many other loose ends to tie,” Kamble said, adding that the police are focusing on the spread of the Lashkar network in the city. Police teams have already been sent to various places, he said.

Interpol has been alerted on this case.

Police commissioner Sharma said the possibility of further terror attacks could not be ruled out, but added that security has been beefed up keeping this in mind.

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