Calcutta, Aug. 29: Yasin “most wanted” Bhatkal was arrested in Calcutta in December 2009 and spent a month in jail here, but the cops could not recognise him.
The young unshaven man, then caught on suspicion of involvement in a fake-currency racket, was charged with petty theft because of lack of evidence.
Yasin later obtained bail, walked out of Alipore Central Jail in late January 2010, and disappeared. A blast ripped Pune’s German Bakery days later. Yasin is said to be the man who planted the bomb.
A photograph, identified by PTI as that of Yasin Bhatkal, from Motihari in Bihar on Thursday. (PTI photo)
WHO IS YASIN BHATKAL?
Mohammad Ahmad Zarar Siddibapa
Yasin Bhatkal, Imran, Shah Rukh
Claim to fame
Co-founder of Indian Mujahideen (IM) with Calcutta-born Amir Reza Khan and others in 2004
Bhatkal, a coastal town in Karnataka
Involvement in the 2010 German Bakery explosions in Pune in which 17 people, including four youngsters from Calcutta, were killed and the Delhi High Court blasts that claimed 12 lives. Also linked to blasts in Mumbai trains, the Chinnaswamy stadiumin Bangalore, the
Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi, Ahmedabad, Surat and Dilsukhnagar in Hyderabad
Bomb-maker, motivator, recruiter, logistics provider, leader
The 2002 Gujarat pogrom, say security agencies
At Anjuman Hami-e-Muslimeen School, Bhatkal. Moved to Pune as a teenager where, unconfirmed reports say, he studied engineering
In Pune, where he lived with Iqbal Ismail Shahbandri, an unani practitioner-turned-jihadi ideologue whom he knew since childhood and who became his mentor
Lower middle-class. Brother Abdul Samad worked in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In 2010, the UAE deported him to India but after his interrogation, Indian intelligence officials said he had no contact with the IM
Bangladesh, Pakistan and West Asia
Key IM leaders at large
Amir Reza Khan, Riyaz Bhatkal, Iqbal Bhatkal, Iqbal Ismail Shahbandri. All believed to be in Pakistan
“A court sent Yasin Bhatkal to jail because the police did not even seek his custody. Calcutta police had apparently not found him important enough to take him into custody and interrogate him,” said an officer of the Special Task Force (STF) that had arrested Yasin. This city police wing deals with terror cases.
“After he got bail, we lost him completely. He never appeared before any court for hearings later,” the officer added.
Yasin was in Calcutta posing as Mohammad Asraf, a purported resident of Darbhanga in Bihar who carried a voter ID with that name.
Police sources said the force hadn’t cared to verify with their Darbhanga counterparts if the identity was real. Other sources said officers had “called up” Darbhanga police and were told someone called Mohammad Asraf indeed lived there. The investigations ended at that despite the possibility that names and papers can be faked.
Years before that, Yasin had co-founded the Indian Mujahideen along with the Calcutta-born Amir Reza Khan, yet the police had no details about him: no photographs, fingerprints, DNA samples or retina identification, not even the aliases he had been known to use.
“We had no idea he visited the city three months before that (in September 2009) and collected explosives to be used in the blasts at the German Bakery and (outside Bangalore’s) Chinnaswamy stadium (April 2010),” another officer said.
Accompanied by another man, Yasin had allegedly collected 8kg of explosives from a Nadia resident, Anwar Hussain Mallik, in a tea stall near Calcutta’s Science City. Anwar was arrested in Calcutta last month.
|Bhatkal (in blue shirt) and Akhtar at Motihari court. Picture by Ajit Kumar Verma
Yasin was picked up in Calcutta on December 29, 2009, after a tip-off from a central agency about a consignment of counterfeit Indian currency that was to be brought to the city from Nadia.
The STF had closed in on three men. Two of them had come from Nadia and the other had been living in central Calcutta.
“The youth staying in Calcutta’s Colootola was picked up. However, no counterfeit notes were found and there was no evidence to suggest his involvement in any terror activity. He identified himself as Asraf and produced a voter I-card. We had no evidence to hold him back,” said a senior STF officer.
Weeks after Yasin jumped bail, the Intelligence Bureau contacted the STF seeking details of a “terrorist” caught from the city as part of a fake currency racket.
The query did not ring bells immediately. The central agency narrowed down the time window and sought pictures of all those arrested during the period. Only one man had been held. Calcutta sent the picture. It flashed on TV screens across India this morning.
Yasin is suspected to have given Calcutta police the slip a second time in 2010 when he was allegedly in the city to receive small arms and explosives. “We intercepted a bus from Hili (South Dinajpur) in Calcutta and the arms dealer was nabbed,” another officer said.
The dealer was held and a trap was set outside the Tipu Sultan Masjid in Esplanade with him as a bait. But the receiver spotted two plainclothes policemen. “Tere paas mamu khara hai (there are policemen near you),” an officer quoted the receiver as telling the bait. “He switched off his phone and we lost his trail.”