India can claim that it has made major headway in arresting several terrorists. It began with the major arrest of Zabbiuddin Ansari, the accused in the 26/11 attack. Then came the major arrest of Yasin Bhatkal followed by Abdul Karim Tunda, Waqas Ahmed and now Tehsin Akthar.
Each of these operations carried out mainly by our Intelligence Bureau have all the essences of a Hollywood pot boiler and it has taken them years before they actually managed to track these operatives and take them into custody.
Let us examine in parts how each of these men were tracked pain stakingly and picked up by our agencies. Today we begin with Tehsin Akthar, the latest in the list of those arrested by our agencies:
A smart cookie, politically connected and a will to carry forward an organisation called the Indian Mujahideen made him one of the toughest catches for the Indian agencies. The IB launched the radar against him four years back and it took them that much time before they finally managed to pick him up.
The name of this 23 year old operative cropped up for the first time in the year 2006 when he was accused of carrying out the Varanasi blasts which left 20 dead. Born on July 7 1990 at Samastipur in Bihar he was just 16 when he carried out his first operation in Varanasi. At that point in time the agencies did not know much about him and for the next three years interrogations of various operatives and intercepts were put together before they finally made a file on him. It was in the year 2009 that the agencies started to look for this man since the data base on him was complete by then. From here it was a cat and mouse game and he came close to being nabbed several times but always managed to give the slip. It was during this cat and mouse game that he managed to actually carry out major attacks such as the 13/7, Dilsukhnagar, Jama Masjid, Bodhgaya and the Patna blasts. Not once in this entire chase did he move to Pakistan. Like Yasin Bhatkal he too is considered to be a master of disguise and used technology on a very limited scale which made tracking him harder. However the biggest draw back for the agencies was his connections back in Samastipur and Darabhanga which made hiding for him all the more easier. After each of the blasts that he carried out, he went back to Samastipur. Several officers who have been on the job for the past four years to track him say that there were enough leads and evidence to suggest that he went back to his home town. However what Tehsin had favouring him was the local support in his home town and each time the agencies tried to track him down there was a virtual human chain that was formed to protect him. Due to a political connection back in Samstipur, at times even the police were not forthcoming. It is very essential that the local mechanism supports us in such an operation.
Getting him in his home town started to become very difficult and that is when Plan B was launched. The agencies while following some intercepts and also while questioning Yasin Bhatkal found that he used to frequent Nepal a lot. In the past year he has been to Nepal twice and there have also been times when he travelled to Munnar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. It was at this time that the agencies waited on him and felt that the best place to nab him is out of his comfort zone.
His first visit to Nepal was after the Patna blasts. The agencies began to coordinate with their counterparts in that country, but then due to lack of complete information that plan had to be dropped.
However last month, there were a great deal of intercepts that were being picked up by the agencies. There were emails that were exchanged between him and his accomplice Waqas Ahmed. There was also a call between him and Riyaz Bhatkal in Karachi which suggested that after he completes this operation, arrangements would be made to shift him to Pakistan where he was required to stay for a year until the heat on him settles down. IB sources say that he had even readied a passport for himself on a fake identification and this was provided to him from a module in Kerala.
The Rajasthan operation of the Indian Mujahideen which was being overseen by Tehsin was going to be a big one. They had plans on bombing tourists on the Palace on Wheels, but the main target was the elections. They had on their mind plans to blast several venues in Rajasthan where election rallies were being held.
The plan was set and the entire discussion took place sometimes in Rajasthan and at times in Jharkhand where the IM had opened up its new module. During the last meeting which was held in the first week of March, Tehsin instructed Waqas Ahmed that he would have to leave for Nepal and bring back some recruits. In all they were planning on using 30 recruits who had no record in the books of the Indian agencies. 10 days after the meeting with Waqas Ahmed, Tehsin left for Nepal. His exact location at the time of his detention was near the India-Nepal border in Pani Tankhi area of Naxalbari. He had two things to take care of here. He had to collect money and also bring back some operatives for the Rajasthan operation and use them as foot soldiers. This was a major intercept and the Intelligence Agencies were on his trail for nearly 10 days before they finally rounded him up. Once his exact location was verified a team of the Intelligence Bureau camped in that area and kept a close watch on his movements. He met with several persons at that time and his mails and calls were constantly being tracked. Then came a tip off regarding his meeting with an accomplice of his and this is when the agencies rounded him up.
(Next Waqas Ahmed, the Zaveri Bazaar bomber)