Bangalore, Aug. 29: Bhatkal in North Karnataka district is now known as the home of the “commander” of the Indian Mujahideen who is allegedly responsible for hundreds of deaths in blasts across the country.
Intelligence sources talk about how a practitioner of unani (a type of traditional medicine) transformed local boy Mohammad Ahmad Zarar Siddibapa into Yasin Bhatkal, whom police describe as the “operational head” of the Indian Mujahideen.
“He should be punished if he is guilty after the due process of law is followed,” Yasin’s family said in a statement signed by his father Zarar Siddibapa and uncle Yaqub Siddibapa. Both of them trade in garments. Zarar was once into real estate.
The family clarified that Yasin, 30, had a school education but did not clear Class X. He left for Dubai in November 2005 and “disappeared from Dubai in January 2007”. The family claimed that Yasin could not be traced after that.
Before his arrest, the family had claimed that Yasin had been killed in an encounter. “We are relieved because the truth will come out and our fears that he had been eliminated in a fake encounter have been set to rest,” the statement said.
Yasin had studied in the elite Anjuman Hami-e-Muslimeen school for Bhatkali Sunni Muslim students. It was during his school years that he came into contact with unani practitioner Iqbal Ismail Shahbandri, who is now believed to be in Pakistan.
The unani practitioner and his brother Riyaz Ismail Shahbandri indoctrinated youngsters like Yasin to carry out terror attacks across the country, an intelligence source said. He added that Riyaz Ismail was suspected to be in Karachi.
Originally, the Shahbandri brothers were associated with the now-banned Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi) but moved underground with their young recruits after the organisation was banned.
Prominent among the local youths who joined Simi and later the Indian Mujahideen are brothers Riyaz Bhatkal and Iqbal Bhatkal (not related to Yasin), who are believed to be in Karachi, where Indian Mujahideen’s operations are planned.
The presence of such a dreaded organisation in Karnataka was a hard truth that the blasts at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore threw up three years ago.
On April 17, 2010, sixteen people were injured when two bombs went off near the stadium that was to host an IPL tie between the Bangalore and Mumbai teams. The police later defused a third bomb.
The blasts led the police to Bhatkal — a coastal town 400km from Bangalore — to unearth the details about the extremists.