|A photograph, identified by PTI as that of Asadullah Akhtar, from Motihari. (PTI)
Lucknow, Aug. 29: The arrest of Asadullah Akhtar, Yasin Bhatkal’s aide picked up along with the Indian Mujahideen co-founder, has shifted the focus back to his hometown Azamgarh.
The eastern Uttar Pradesh district came into the spotlight with the Batla House encounter of 2008 in Delhi and Asadullah, the son of a doctor, has been missing since then. Two Azamgarh youths, Atif Ameen and Mohammad Sajid, were killed along with inspector Mohan Chand Sharma in the shootout.
Asadullah, 28, is from Azamgarh’s Gulami ki Purwa village which saw several raids in the wake of the encounter in search of suspects.
A pharmacy graduate, Asadullah learnt bomb making from Yasin and was his close aide, police sources said.
The Andhra Pradesh government had announced a Rs 10-lakh reward for information on Asadullah in connection with the Hyderabad blasts of February this year in which 14 persons were killed.
Asadullah is also suspected to have masterminded a series of blasts in courts across Uttar Pradesh in 2007. Other attacks that Asadullah has been linked to include the blasts in Mumbai in July last year and explosions in Jaipur and Ahmedabad earlier.
Asked about Asadullah’s arrest, his father Javed Akhtar said today he did not believe the police’s claims about his son. “I will say anything only after I speak to my son,” the 65-year-old orthopaedic surgeon said.
Akhtar had contested the 2009 Lok Sabha polls from Azamgarh as a candidate of the Ulema Council, launched by local cleric Maulana Aamir Rashadi to mobilise public opinion against the crackdown on the district after the Batla encounter. Akhtar lost the polls.
The police suspect Asadullah was in Delhi at the time of the Batla encounter on September 19, 2008, and escaped soon after. Uttar Pradesh intelligence sources said Asadullah’s “indoctrination” in terror began while he was a pharmacy graduate student in Lucknow. He visited Pakistan several times along with the Bhatkal brothers, the sources added.
Asadullah was also tasked with tapping educated youths for the Indian Mujahideen. He is believed to have picked over a dozen recruits from Azamgarh, Jaunpur and Lucknow and other areas of eastern Uttar Pradesh.