Gujarat police grabs blasts’ mastermind
Abdul Rashid alias Mufti Abu Bashir Ilahi, suspected to be the national head of Indian Mujahideen which took responsibility for the 17 blasts in Ahmedabad, has been arrested by a joint team of the Gujarat and UP Police.
Ilahi’s organisation had also owned up for planting the 20 explosive devices in Surat on July 29.
Ilahi was arrested from his native village Tarai Mir in Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh by a joint team headed by Himanshu Shukla who was incharge of Gujarat’s Special Investigation Team (SIT), and the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of UP Police. He is being held at Lucknow till official formalities are completed to get him to Ahmedabad.
Incidentally, Tarai Mir is also the native place of underworld don Abu Salem.
Addressing a Press conference here on Saturday, Gujarat’s Director General of Police PC Pandey announced the formal arrest of 10 persons, including Illahi. “They would be charged with various offences, including murder and waging war against the State,” he said.
The contours of the entire conspiracy leading up to the Ahmedabad blasts and the Surat recoveries, besides vital inputs which would help unravel the 11 other explosions in Bangalore, Jaipur, Maharashtra, UP, Delhi and Hyderabad, are expected to crystalise soon.
Ilahi, who was teaching at a madarsa in Hyderabad for the past two years, besides editing a journal, is believed to have taken over as head of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) after the arrest of Safdar Nagori. While in Hyderabad, Ilahi was in touch with Naseer, a Pakistan-trained terrorist whose father is in a Gujarat jail for his involvement in the Haren Pandya murder case.Pandey confirmed that Indian Mujahideen is the new name given to SIMI after it was banned. Specialised manpower had been pooled from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Jharkhand, UP, Karnataka and MP to carry out the blasts in Ahmedabad.
“To unravel such a conspiracy, the police of all these States as well as Central agencies pooled in information to bust the case in record time. I attribute the success to the police”, Pandey said.
Ashish Bhatia, the Ahmedabad joint commissioner heading the investigation, said the genesis of the plot lies in the SIMI training camp organised in the jungles of Waghamon near Alua in Kerala in December 2007 where 40 recruits from abovementioned States were put through a capsule commando training course. This camp was addressed by both Safdar Nagori and his brother Karimuddin. It was here that the plan to carry out blasts in various parts of the country was hatched. As a follow-up, the two SIMI leaders had come to Gujarat and addressed a combined meeting of Gujarat SIMI workers with the intent of carrying out terror activities here.
Thereafter, a training camp to acclimatise the Gujarat workers and further indoctrinate them was held in the jungles of Pavagadh near Vadodara in January 2008. The broad contours of the plan for Ahmedabad and Surat were prepared at this camp, Bhatia said.
The plan suffered a major setback after Nagori and other SIMI workers were arrested in March 2008. However, Ilahi moved in to plug the void aided by Kayamuddin of Vadodara and a top techno-activist from Mumbai who had earlier worked with Wipro. The reconstituted core group toyed with the idea of initially carrying out a hijack or a very high profile kidnapping to bargain for the release of Nagori but postponed it. Instead they decided to concentrate on carrying out blasts in key cities in a phased manner to establish the profile of Indian Mujahideen. Interestingly, the initials IM (Indian Mujahideen) are the middle alphabets of SIMI,” Bhatia said.
Piecing together the evidence, the investigating team found that Zahid Sheikh, a resident of Juhapura in Ahmedabad, had attended both the camps and had also provided the local logistics for a team of nine — five from Madhya Pradesh, two from Maharashtra and two from Karnataka — which had assembled in Ahmedabad. The team held meetings in Bapunagar area of Ahmedabad in April, another one in at a different city in May and the final one on July 20 at Zahid’s residence. The elusive Mumbai man is both the cyber as well as explosive expert, Bhatia added.
It was Zahid who was first picked up and, under intense interrogation, spilled the beans leading to the arrest of Yunus Mansuri, Shanshuddin Sheikh, Arif Kadri, Gyasuddin from Ahmedabad and Imran, Usman Agarbattiwala, Iqbal Sheikh and Sajid Mansuri from Vadodara.
Pandey said that the sleuths now have a fairly clear picture of the planning and execution of the blasts and the Surat plan, including intricate details of the procurement of four stolen cars from Mumbai, two of which were used in the blasts at the two hospitals and the other two which were recovered along with raw material for manufacture of explosives from Surat on July 28.
“We have identified the people who stole the cars and the place in MP from where the raw material for the explosives was procured. We also know where and how the explosives were put together. A timer was used in Ahmedabad and a chip in Surat only because the core group was the same and a time gap was needed to reach the other city after carrying out the blast in the first one.
“A timer holds only for 12 hours while a chip can be timed for a longer interval. Nevertheless, we will soon be able to get to the reason why the Surat explosives failed to go off”, Pandey said.
The important clue came from information that five sim cards had been purchased under different names meant only for one-way usage and these had been discarded after the July 26 explosions.
Also, all the Ahmedabad cycle-bombs were set to the same time to detonate so that the two hospitals would be chock-a-block with the injured, their relatives, medicos and the para-medical staff when the major explosions take place. This was designed to inflict maximum casualty.
How it happened
· Cops from Gujarat, M’rashtra, Kerala, Jharkhand, UP, Karnataka and MP pool in manpower to crack case
· IM head Abul Bashir Ilahi nabbed in Azamgarh
· SIMI camp in Kerala jungles in December 2007 hatches serial blasts plan, gives commando training to 40 recruits
· Nagori brothers come to Gujarat in January 2008 to indoctrinate locals. nAcclimatisation camp held in Vadodra jungles
· Plan set back as Nagori is arrested in March 2008.
· Ilahi moves in with Kayamuddin and top techno-activist formerly from Wipro.
· Reconstituted core group plans hijack/kidnapping to get Nagori back. Change mind, stick to Plan A: Blasts in key cities to get IM a name
· Team of nine put in place for Ahmedabad blasts. Zahid gives local logistics
How it was cracked
· Zahid held after blasts Spills the beans
· Car thieves identified, raw explosives came from MP
· Timer used for Ahmedabad, chips for Surat to get a time gap. Timer holds for 12 hours, chip can be timed for longer interval.
· 5 sims purchased under different names only with incoming facility, discarded after the blasts
· All cycle-bombs set to same time — for maximum damage at two hospitals
Ahmedabad blasts` mastermind caught
Zeenews Bureau Aug. 17, 2008
Ahmedabad, Aug 16: Mufti Abu Bashir, the alleged mastermind behind the July 26 terror attacks, was brought to Ahmedabad this evening, police sources said. Nine other people have also been arrested by the Gujarat police for their suspected involvement in the serial blasts which claimed the lives of 55 people and injured 150 others.
Bashir was arrested earlier in the day by a joint team of Gujarat police and the Anti-Terrorist Squad of Uttar Pradesh police. A Lucknow court granted Gujarat police three-day transit remand of Bashir, an active member of banned organisation SIMI, to bring him to Ahmedabad for detailed interrogation.
The Gujarat police, earlier in the day, claimed they had ‘nearly cracked’ the conspiracy behind the Ahmedabad serial bombings, with his arrest.
Abu Bashir, who hails from Binapara village in UP, was arrested from Lucknow’s Moulviganj area and is being taken to Gujarat for questioning on a 3 day transit remand. The UP police also conducted raids on Bashir’s house on Saturday.
“With the arrest of Mufti Abu Bashir from Azamgarh (in Uttar Pradesh) today by a joint team of Gujarat Police and UP police, it is probably the first time anyone has reached the brain behind (such kind of) blasts,” Pandey claimed.
The DGP also said that the Indian Mujahidden terror group, which had claimed responsibility for the Ahmedabad blasts, was none other than the hard-line faction of the banned SIMI organisation. Joint Commissioner Bhatia informed the press that SIMI has split along hardline and moderate factions, and that it was this hardline faction of SIMI which started calling itself SIM, ‘Student Islamic Movement’ with global aspirations. It later took out the ‘Student’ from its name so that it was left with ‘IM,’ which was re-christened to ‘Indian Mujahideen.’
According to Pandey, Bashir, with his oratory, “used to inspire terror activities. In April, he had held a big meeting. He had also visited Ahmedabad. By interrogating him more clues about other blasts that occurred in the country earlier could come out. We have uncovered sleeper cells successfully,” the police chief added.
“I wish to say with full pride that for the last 20 days, Gujarat Police has been progressing on its investigation. A Crime branch team headed by Ashish Bhatia (Joint Commissioner- Crime) and police forces of Vadodara, Bharuch and Surat had taken up independent investigative operations that led to the arrests of nine people.
Replying to a question about a US national being interrogated, Pandey said this lead too was being probed. The IP address of a terror e-mail sent to TV news channels prior to the blasts was traced to Navi Mumbai and turned out to be that of the US national.
Navi Mumbai police say it is possible the American’s account could have been hacked into. The an e-mail has helped the security agencies arrest some people and release sketches of different suspects.
Surat bombs used different timers
According to Pandey, the only difference between the bombs used in the Ahmedabad blasts and those that failed to go off in Surat was the timers used.
The timers used in the Ahmedabad bombs were mechanical clocks while those in Surat bombs were IC chips that malfunctioned.
He also pulled up the media for their ‘over excitement.’ “If the police can’t tell you something as disclosing something prematurely will harm the investigation, there is a weird competition among the media to write stories based on speculation,” he said tartly.
He said that the leads from the investigation would help to solve about 11-12 others cases including those in Jaipur, Bangalore, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Well planned attack
About 40-50 cadres of the banned organisation had participated in extensive training in the jungles near Ernakulam of Kerala in December 2007 and again in Gujarat in the first week of January. The second camp was conducted in the hilly Pavagadh area of Halol in Panchmahals district.
He further added that prior to the Ahmedabad and Surat blasts, Abu Bashir organised camps in Gujarat during April 2008 where they charted out the plan of Ahmedabad and Surat blasts.
One of those arrested, Nasir, was from Gujarat and is the son of Naseemuddin who is lodged in the Sabarmati jail here, Bhatia said.
At the Ernakulam camp, Bhatia said, the activists were trained in planting cycle bombs and also put through a regimen of rock climbing and swimming, and were taught how to survive in the jungle and how to throw the police off track if caught.
The activists were also given pseudonyms, Bhatia said, adding that a bomb-making expert, identified as Altaf Subhan, was also present at the camp. Intelligence agencies believe at least some of those trained were involved in the Jaipur blasts in May.
A meeting was held at the house of Yunus Mansuri in Bapunagar area of the city to plan the blasts, Bhatia said.
They had purchased five pre-paid mobile cards for internal communications and they were traced after checking the records.
It was found that the calls which were coming to these five cards had stopped after July 26, the day of the blasts.
Bhatia also said police have indentified the shops from where the cycles used in the blasts were purchased.
Explosives for the blasts came from Madhya Pradesh, Bhatia said. “Those arrested were present during a training camp organised by SIMI in Halol in Vadodara distrct in January 2008. They were given training on how to survive in adverse conditions and were trained how to tackle police interrogation,” Bhatia said.
“They were also taught how to drive motorcycle and fake an accident during the camp,” Bhatia said.
Those arrested include Jahid Sheikh, Yunus Mansuri, Shamsudin Sheikh, Arif Kadri, Gyasuddin, Imran, Usman Agarbattiwala, Iqbal Sheikh and Sajid Mansuri.
Without ruling out the involvement of locals, he said that a lot of outsiders were involved in the blasts.
He also claimed to have busted many sleeper cells of the banned SIMI across the state.
In an eye raising discloser, the DGP said that most of the arrested were well educated. One terrorist, who hails from Mumbai, even worked in Wipro, said the police. But he was not able to provide other concrete details, as the person was still at large.
According to the DGP, SIMI had a role in all the major blasts that shook the country in the past few years, including in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Jaipur, Maharashtra and Hyderabad. The Gujarat police has leads which will lead them to those behind the blasts in other states, he added.
Ruing the media’s role during the terrorist attacks, Pandey said, “It is very unfortunate that media sometimes over excitedly and unknowingly project things in such a way that helps terrorists and gives them boost. Sometimes Police do not divulge things that will affect the investigation. ”
Brain mapping on Bilal : Mumbai ATS chief
Meanwhile, addressing a press conference, Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare said that the organisation is also conducting a parallel investigation into the Ahmadabad and Surat blasts.
The police has conducted a brain mapping test on Bilal Kagzi and another person in connection with the cases. He said that the police was not giving a ‘clean chit’ to the American national, Kenneth Heywood, a resident of Navi Mumbai, whose IP address was used to send the email, purportedly from the Indian Mujahideen. The email, from an organisation styling itself the Indian Mujahideen, was sent to media organisaitons minutes before the blasts and claimed responsibility for the terror attack.
The Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of the Mumbai police is also investigating a former Wipro engineer’s possible role in the July 26 Ahmedabad serial blasts, a senior police official said Saturday.
The ATS arrested two people form Pune in a fake currency case, Nadeem Shaikh and Ayaz Khan, and they would be quizzed about their possible involvement in the Ahmedabad blasts, the ATS chief added.
The ATS is also grappling with the case of the four stolen vehicles from Navi Mumbai which were used in the blasts.
However, the ATS is hopeful of getting leads from the forensic reports of the laptops and computers seized from some of Haywood’s neighbours in the Gunina Apartments of Sanpada suburb in Navi Mumbai.
Since last Tuesday, nearly 10 people, including Haywood have been subjected to polygraph and lie detector tests in connection with the terror e-mail, Karkare said.
With IANS inputs