Patna, Sept. 15: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) heaved a sigh of relief after a Darbhanga resident mustered courage yesterday to identify the co-founder of the Indian Mujahideen, Yasin Bhatkal, strengthening the case against him.
Arrested from Raxaul on India-Nepal border in East Champaran district on August 29, Bhatkal was brought to Darbhanga from New Delhi by a chartered plane on Saturday morning. He was shocked when a tea vendor identified him despite his long beard.
“Yes, he is the same person who moved in the area and promised jobs to youths a few years ago. The only difference is that he didn’t have a long beard then,” the vendor reportedly told a four-member NIA team that visited Sara Mohanganj locality under the jurisdiction of Sadar police station in Darbhanga.
The vendor reportedly recalled how young Bhatkal, then known as Dr Imran, used to meet the people at his tea stall and indoctrinate them, particularly the teenaged boys of the area. Most of the residents knew him as a practitioner of a traditional system of medicine, the vendor told the NIA team.
He revealed that Dr Imran (read Bhatkal) used to travel in an SUV (sports utility vehicle). People were influenced by him because of his behaviour. “He was well behaved and used to respect the local residents. He never quarrelled with anyone,” a member of the team quoted the tea vendor as saying.
Sources said Bhatkal was taken to a house where his associate Md Ateef lived. Bhatkal at times stayed there while changing his location during his Darbhanga stay. The owner of the house, however, refused to identify the man in the custody of the NIA, assigned to probe the serial blasts at Bodhgaya, around 115km south from here, on July 7 this year.
Bhatkal, who was escorted by trained jawans of the special task force and the commandoes of the district armed police, was brought to Chakjohra (Laheriasarai) area, where his confidante Md Danish Ansari lived with his parents. The area was reportedly used as a hideout for the IM suspects during 2007-08, sources said.
“Laheriasarai’s Chakjohra and Saidnagar Abanda proved a fertile land for Bhatkal. He got important persons from there. They were later inducted in the outfit,” an NIA official said, adding that Bhatkal was taken to Rahamkhan locality behind the Quilla Maidan, the area he frequented during his stay to hold meetings.
The NIA team also visited Shivdhara Jamalchak village under the jurisdiction of Mabbi police station in Darbhanga district. Sources said one Kafeel Ahmad had arranged rented accommodation for Bhatkal during his second trip to Darbhanga to strengthen the network of the banned outfit in 2010-11.
The sources said the NIA team comprising a deputy inspector-general and an superintendent of police-rank officer, spent about four hours in Darbhanga town and its adjoining areas. An SP-rank officer said: “The purpose of the visit was to identify the places used to create the Darbhanga module, discovered by the special cell of the Delhi police in the aftermath of Mumbai blasts in 2011.”
A person has been detained for questioning at the Laheriasarai police station. A police officer said: “He has been detained and not arrested.” The officer refused to share more information on the plea that he was not wanted in any case lodged by the district police.