Aug. 29: Security agencies captured a lynchpin of the home-grown jihadi movement last night to confront a 30-year-old who officers said was surprisingly blasť about the deadly blasts he is accused of.
“Yeh toh hota rahta hai, isme kaun si nayi baat hai (These things keep happening; what’s so new about a few blasts)?” Yasin Bhatkal is said to have told interrogators in Patna, from where he will be flown to Delhi tomorrow morning.
The Indian Mujahideen co-founder was arrested by Bihar police from the Nepal border near Raxaul, 160km from Patna, in an operation plotted apparently with help from the Research and Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau and America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Yasin is accused of a string of high-profile blasts, including the 2010 German Bakery explosion in Pune where CCTV footage purportedly shows him walking in with a black backpack and placing it close to where the four young Calcuttan victims sat. His other targets include Mumbai’s trains (2006), Delhi High Court (2011), Jama Masjid (2010) and Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium (2010).
When Yasin was caught, he was with Indian Mujahideen operative Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, who is from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh. No one would reveal details of the operation but police sources said the duo ran a small clinic along the India-Nepal border, posing as unani medicine practitioners.
“After we nabbed him, he kept denying being Bhatkal and claimed he was a doctor. Then he said he was an engineer looking after an irrigation project in Nepal,” a source said.
The police had by then clicked the duo’s pictures and sent them to the anti-terrorism squad in Delhi, “who confirmed they were indeed Bhatkal and Akhtar”, the source added.
The two suspects were taken in a convoy of 10 vehicles to Patna, where a magistrate granted the National Investigation Agency three days’ transit remand.
“During daylong questioning, he kept repeating the same thing (about blasts being nothing new) and showed no remorse,” an officer, who was part of the interrogating team, told The Telegraph.
Yasin has been living in Pakistan but frequently travelled to Bangladesh to help push fake Indian currency through the Bengal border, sources said.
The Nepal border has now yielded two senior terrorists into Indian custody in a fortnight after the original Indian jihadi, 70-year-old Abdul Karim Tunda, was captured in Uttarakhand on August 16.
“Yasin’s arrest will certainly demoralise the IM operatives spread across India — in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Bengal. We have alerted police heads all over the country to watch out for retaliatory attacks,” a Union home ministry official said.
Former home secretary R.K. Singh said Yasin’s arrest was a breakthrough. “This fellow has been the most active and potent terrorist in the Indian Mujahideen stable. He himself was a bomb planter and organiser,” he said.
Singh said Yasin had escaped from the security agencies’ grasp at least twice earlier. “Once (in 2009), he was arrested in Calcutta but they (security agencies) did not have his identity and he managed to get bail. On another occasion, our agencies worked out a plan but he managed to give them the slip,” he said.
Yasin, born on January 15, 1983, in the Karnataka coastal town of Bhatkal, was just 21 when he formed the Indian Mujahideen with the Calcutta-born gangster Amir Reza Khan, an accused in the 2002 American Center attack, and a few others. Among them were Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, two brothers from Yasin’s hometown but unrelated to him.
An Intelligence Bureau official said the 2002 Gujarat pogrom was the trigger for the outfit’s formation. Many operatives from the banned Students Islamic Movement of India joined it.
Amir Reza Khan couriered the initial funding from Pakistani intelligence agency ISI, sources said. The organisation soon spread to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Bengal.
“Yasin’s association with Bihar began when he got in touch with another Indian Mujahideen operative, a Darbhanga native named Fasih Mahmood, in 2009. The Bihar module carried out the attacks at the Chinnaswamy Stadium and Delhi’s Jama Masjid,” an officer said.
He said Yasin had used his “forces” well and proved he could strike anywhere and anytime, under the noses of the security agencies.