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IM ‘head’ arrested in Darjeeling

- Linked to multiple blasts, operative succeeded Yasin Bhatkal, say police

New Delhi, March 25: Delhi police today announced the arrest of the Indian Mujahideen officiating head, Tehsin Akhtar, and linked him to the blasts at Narendra Modi’s rally in Patna last year.

The special cell of Delhi police said 23-year-old Akhtar alias Monu was arrested in Darjeeling today. But Intelligence Bureau officials in Delhi said he was detained by them a few days ago and handed over to the police after interrogation yesterday.

Special commissioner of Delhi police S.N. Srivastava contested the bureau’s claim.

The arrest of Akhtar, who the police said hailed from Darbhanga in Bihar, came days after some IM operatives were arrested in Ajmer and Jaipur on Sunday.

“Akhtar was the officiating head of the Indian Mujahideen after the arrest of the outfit’s commander Yasin Bhatkal last year. Akhtar was heading terror operations in India and was in direct touch with the Bhatkal brothers, Riyaz and Iqbal, the co-founders of the outfit said to be hiding in Pakistan,” Srivastava said.

The officer added the special cell arrested Akhtar in Naxalbari, Darjeeling, following a tip-off it received while interrogating the IM operatives arrested on Sunday.

“The special cell team arrested Akhtar after his location was disclosed by one his associates, Pakistani terrorist Zia-Ur-Rehman alias Waqas. He was arrested on Sunday in Ajmer. Akhtar was a close aide and a protégé of Yasin Bhatkal,” Srivastava said.

Delhi police had on Sunday nabbed Waqas in Ajmer. His arrest coincided with the capture of three of his associates —- Mohammed Mahruf, Mohammed Waqar Azhar and Shaquib Ansari — in Jaipur.

Srivastva said today: “Akhtar’s elevation as the IM’s India chief happened after the arrest of Yasin Bhatkal and Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi in August 2013. They were arrested near the India-Nepal border. Akhtar had been handling all the India-based modules of the outfit. He was the key link between the IM and other splinter terror groups that have emerged from the umbrella of the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi).”

According to police sources, Akhtar’s interrogation had revealed that he was known to Gayur Ahmad Jamali, an IM operative arrested in 2011. Jamali had allegedly introduced Akhtar to Kafeel and Yasin Bhatkal, following which Akhtar rose up the ranks and became an important member of the terror outfit.

“His (Akhtar) first assignment was to act as the carrier for Pakistan-based terrorist Adil Ajmal and to ensure that he safely crossed over to Nepal through India. His second assignment was to receive Waqas and Haddi in Kathmandu. Soon after that, all three along with Yasin Bhatkal and Adil Ajmal carried out the Jama Masjid attacks in 2010,” said a senior police officer in Delhi.

The police said Akhtar was involved in the blast in Varanasi’s Seetla Ghat, a cooker-bomb explosion outside Jama Masjid in Delhi, the serial blasts in Mumbai in 2011, the bombings in Pune in 2012 and the twin explosions in Hyderabad last year.

“After the arrest of Yasin Bhatkal and Haddi, Akhtar left Jodhpur and went to Kerala’s Munnar where Waqas was also hiding. After staying there for a few months, Akhtar went to Bihar and masterminded the Patna blasts,” the police officer added.