The person identified by PTI as Yasin Bhatkal. (PTI photo)
Aug. 30: A four-hour lecture at a Karnataka madarsa had been the decisive event that turned a teenaged Yasin Bhatkal into a jihadi, sources in the interrogating team said.
The Indian Mujahideen co-founder was sent to 12 days’ police custody today along with aide Asadullah Akhtar after a failed attempt in court to argue mistaken identity.
The madarsa speech in Bhatkal town took place in 2002 in the aftermath of the Gujarat pogrom. Yasin, then just 19, had accompanied friend Iqbal Ismail Shahbandri, an unani practitioner turned jihadi ideologue, to listen to a group of radical speakers who exhorted the audience to take part in jihad.
“The speech changed his life. He was already under the influence of Shahbandri but the four-hour lecture proved decisive,” an Intelligence Bureau source said. “He began meeting those radicalised groups frequently. There was no looking back.”
Yasin and Akhtar, held from the Nepal border in Bihar on Wednesday night, were flown to Delhi this afternoon and produced at the Patiala House court, their faces muffled.
During the in-camera proceedings, defence counsel M.S. Khan argued that his client was named Mohammad Ahmad and not Yasin Bhatkal. Yasin’s real name is Mohammad Ahmad Zarar Siddibapa.
“What proof do they have to corroborate that he is Yasin Bhatkal?” Khan told the court. After 15 minutes, district judge I.S. Mehta granted 12 days’ remand.
The court also allowed a plea for the duo to be handcuffed when they are taken to various states for further investigation. Yasin, 30, is accused of masterminding a string of terror attacks in Ahmedabad, Surat, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad since 2006.
An officer said the suspects are being held at the Research and Analysis Wing facility in the capital’s Lutyens zone, where they are being guarded by “50 armed policemen and commandos”.
Officials from the National Investigation Agency and other central security agencies are questioning the duo.
“Initially, Yasin was proving a hard nut to crack but he has started opening up. We’ll get to know many things about the Indian Mujahideen and its birth,” the officer said.
Sources said Yasin had given away his Nepal hideout early this month by sending Rs 1 lakh as an Id gift to his wife through normal banking channels, a PTI report said.
The Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing apparently traced the money trail and began plotting the arrest.
Yasin has apparently told his interrogators the money was meant to cover Id expenses at his home in India.
Sources in Patna told The Telegraph that Yasin was questioned extensively on the “Darbhanga module” — a central agency coinage that had earlier annoyed chief minister Nitish Kumar with its linking of “a particular region or community or state” to a terror module.
The Indian Mujahideen had chosen Darbhanga because of its location (close to Nepal), a source in the investigation team quoted Yasin as saying. Yasin and his aides recruited many cadres, mostly jobless youths, and used the “marriage bait” to earn local people’s trust, the source said.
“Yasin himself married a girl from Samastipur a few years ago. He said some of the men in the organisation too married local women. The idea was to win the trust of the people,” he said.