ATS on wrong trail, 13/7 perpetrators on the loose, says Indian Mujahideen leader Yasin Bhatkal

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yasinMUMBAI, September 7:  The confessions of the alleged Indian Mujahideen leader Yasin Bhatkal are becoming more and more embarrassing to Maharashtra’s anti-terrorism squad. He has told interrogators that wrong people were arrested for the 13/7 serial blasts, which killed 27 people in Mumbai, and that the real culprits are still at large, according to informed sources.

The ATS arrested four people in the 2011 case. In May 2012, it filed a charge sheet against alleged IM members Naquee Ahmed, Nadeem Shaikh, Kanwar Pathrija and Haroon Naik. Six others including Yaseen, Tabrez Waqas and Tehseen, were shown as wanted.

However, Bhatkal has told the National Investigation Agency that the four men arrested had nothing to do with the blasts. He corroborated the Delhi Police claim that Naquee and Nadeem were in fact police informers, intelligence sources told The Hindu.

Of the arrested men, the ATS had focussed on Haroon Naik. It claimed he was a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative and prize catch. And that he was higher than Yasin in the IM hierarchy. However, Bhatkal could not even recognise Naik from the photographs shown to him. He refuted the ATS claim that Naik was handling the IM’s financial operations, the sources said.

Bhatkal’s statement also raises questions about the ATS account of Naik’s indoctrination. In its charge sheet, the ATS claimed Naik had attended LeT camps in Pakistan, and that he had met Osama bin Laden while at a camp in Bahawalpur in that country in 2001.

“We are closely monitoring what Yasin [Bhatkal] tells the Maharashtra ATS and we will move court accordingly,” Haroon’s lawyer S. Sheikh told.

Police informant

Sources said Naik had been an informant with the Mumbai police for many years and that he had been picked up several times for questioning. In December 2011, a Delhi police team was camping in Mumbai after it got leads about key suspects Waqas and Tabrez hiding in a safe house at Byculla. When the ATS heard about the Delhi team’s arrival, it raided the spot and arrested a man called Naquee. However, he turned out to be a Delhi police informer. But the arrest alerted Waqas and Tabrez, who fled. “A wrong arrest was made in this classic haste for one-upmanship which resulted in the trail going cold,” a senior intelligence officer said.

Interestingly, Bhatkal told interrogators that the main people behind the blast were those who had escaped and were being shown as wanted. It was he who masterminded the blasts and planted the bomb at Dadar, he told the NIA. He was helped by Waqas and Tabrez, who planted the bombs at Opera House and Zaveri Bazaar. Tehseen, meanwhile, provided logistical support.

In fact, Bhatkal’s confessions could also impact the German Bakery case. He has apparently told the NIA that Himayat Baig, the main accused, had no role to play, and that he and Qatil Siddhique carried out the blast. Baig was arrested soon after the incident, and later awarded the death sentence by the Pune sessions court. Qatil Siddhique was killed in Pune’s Yerawada jail by an inmate in 2012.

“Baig had been under surveillance since the Aurangabad arms haul case in 2006, since he hails from Beed. The Pune police had not found much to link him to the German Bakery blast. This input was shared with the ATS but it ended up arresting him,” a police official said.

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