Babbar Khalsa roped into ‘Karchi Plot’

A month ago, Intelligence Bureau officials had sounded off a warning pertaining to a ‘Karachi Plot’ that was being hatched in Pakistan to target several Indian cities.

Further investigations into this plot, hatched by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, the Al-Qaeda’s ‘313 brigade’ and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, have now revealed a new co-conspirer — the Babbar Khalsa.

IB sources told that the ‘Karachi Plot’ is a combination of fidayeen strikes (suicide attacks), assassinations and serial bombings, and each of the outfits has been given a definite role.

Sources say that the ‘313 brigade’ has been training several men for fidayeen strikes on the Indian soil. Assassination of key Indian leaders and targeting political offices is part of the plan.

The ISI is well aware that the Babbar Khalsa is the best in the business when it comes to targeting leaders. The Babbar Khalsa, which had gone quiet since the crackdown in Punjab, has been waiting to return with a bang. Its key leaders fled from India and were readily given shelter by the ISI.

There have been specific inputs that this outfit is being sheltered by the ISI.

Over the past few years, the Babbar Khalsa has managed to intensify its network with the help of Pakistan-based jihadi outfits and today the ISI feels that the time has come to rope them in for one of their biggest operation.

The decision to rope in the Babbar Khalsa was taken during a recent meeting they had with the ISI and the Lashkar held in the Choburjee area in Pakistan. It was also decided to target key leaders like Sonia Gandhi or even attempt a blast outside her residence in New Delhi, sources pointed out.

IB sources say that information has been trickling in that a synchronised attack by the three forces is being planned and there is an immediate need to boost security measures and not take any of these threats lightly.

Pune blast: Possibility of right-wing involvement

Even as investigations continue into the Pune blast of February 13, the police are also looking at the possibility of some right-wing groups being involved in the attack.

“We do not want to leave out any aspect pertaining to the investigation and there is no harm in checking every angle to it,” an investigator told He also said they had significant leads on the Indian Mujahideen’s involvement in the blasts.

Sources say the reason behind the police probing the right-wing groups is due to the huge presence that such groups have in Maharashtra, especially Pune. One right-wing group which was involved in the Malegaon blast case had shown that it had the capability to procure RDX. The prosecution which was dealing with the case had stated that one of the leaders of this group, Col Srikant Prasad Purohit, had managed to steal RDX, that had been seized, during his stint in the army.

Intelligence Bureau sources pointed out that in the earlier cases, each blast had a unique ‘signature’. However now, terror groups have a tendency to change their signature in each blast. This makes it difficult to track the bomb-makers and establish patterns behind the blasts.

Pune blast probe: Still no clear headway

Many days have gone by, a multitude of agencies are at work, yet there is no strong lead in the Pune blasts case.

Investigators are still groping for vital clues despite the Centre’s assertions that there is a strong David Headley link.

Sources say teams probing the case have not found a definitive link as yet, but the major suspicion is still on the Indian Mujahideen. The focus of the investigation has now shifted to the Kondhwa and Janwadi areas of Pune where the Indian Mujahideen has its strong presence. There are around six modules of both the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Indian Mujahideen in the two places, where raids are being carried out.

“One of the persons detained, said to be close to Indian Mujahideen founder Riyaz Bhatkal, has provided us with some details regarding the man and also his brother Iqbal Bhatkal,” sources said.

This man, sources said, left Bhatkal town several years ago and set up a scrap shop in Pune. During Bhatkal’s visit to Pune, he had provided him shelter.

During interrogation, this man told police that Bhatkal was not in the country and was housed in Karachi at the moment.

“He has been taking orders from the Lashkar and has been asked to coordinate with the D-Gang. This man also speaks about Iqbal Bhatkal and says that he could be in Dubai. He said that Bhatkal had told him about the brother and his whereabouts. Further, he also says Bhatkal had last visited Pune in 2007,” sources said.

He says Bhatkal’s first visit to Pune was in 2005, but he did not know the exact purpose behind his visit. He said that he got in touch with him since they were from the same town and he had decided to help him out due to that connection. Further, he says when Bhatkal had stayed with him in 2007, he had housed in a town called Pimpri which is close to Pune.

Sources say over the years many modules from Azamgargh had shifted to Pune.

Pune top cop on blasts

Ever since the blast rocked the city, the Pune police has been under fire for not taking the intelligence alerts seriously. Refuting such reports in an interview to Vicky Nanjappa, Pune’s Commissioner of Police Dr Satyapal Singh says the case will be cracked soon.

Excerpts from the interview:

Are you happy with the manner in which the probe is being carried out?

Many people are on the job and I am happy with the way it is going.

What direction is the probe headed?

Though I can’t give you details, all I can say is that it is going in the right direction

Who are the primary suspects? Is it the Indian Mujahideen?

It is too early to say anything on that. We are exploring every aspect and will let you know once things are clear. We are also probing into the role of the Indian Mujahideen. It could be them as well.

You have picked up four persons. Are they suspects or accused?
At the moment, I would say they are suspects, who are being questioned. Let us see what comes out after the interrogation.

Are these men linked to Riyaz Bhatkal and Mohsin Chaudhary, the founders of the Indian Mujahideen?

They have been picked up on the basis of their alleged links. They are being interrogated and let us see what clues or leads we will stumble upon.

The Centre clearly said it had alerted the Pune police after the David Headley case came up.

You must have read that there was an alert pertaining to a couple of places in Pune. The Pune police had done everything possible to secure the places. There have been these kind of incidents in other places. In a big city, it is difficult sometimes and we cannot check each and everyone.

Was it proper to just secure the places that were on the radar and ignore the rest of the city? Does this mean that the alert was not taken seriously?

No, that is incorrect. These kinds of incidents happen and as I said earlier we cannot check each and everybody. We have taken the alert seriously there is no doubt about that.

Did this blast occur because there was no proper police deployment everywhere in the city?

No, that is not the case. We have taken every alert given to us seriously and there was proper police deployment. I can vouch for that. We are doing our best. Let me assure all of you that.

You said the bomb was triggered by a remote control.

I never said that. I just said there is a possibility that the bomb could have been triggered by a remote-controlled device. The forensics team is doing its work and we are yet to get a complete report. Such things need time and have to be analysed carefully. Once the complete information is out, we will share it with you.

The National Investigating Agency was formed to probe terror-related cases. Does the Pune police feel handicapped now that the NIA has not been roped in to this probe.

I would not agree with you on this. The Pune police, the ATS and Intelligence agencies are all probing this case and I would have to say that it is in the right direction. We are getting vital clues and should be able to crack the case very soon. All the agencies are putting their heads together and working overtime and we are sure of a quick result.

On the Bhatkal trail

Seeking to get more leads into the Pune blast case, the Intelligence Bureau have informed the Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh police to get more clues regarding key man of the Indian Mujahideen, Riyaz Bhatkal.

Western Range Inspector General of Police in Karnataka Gopal Hosur said that they were investigating regarding the whereabouts of Riyaz Bhatkal, so that more clues to the Pune blast could be obtained. Riyaz Bhatkal, who originally hails from the coastal town of Bhatkal in Karnataka, had set up the Indian Mujahideen. He was also closely associated with Mohsin Chaudhary, who had set up the Pune module of the IM.

Bhatkal slipped out of India and left for Dubai, and later moved into Karachi and was hiding there. The police believe that he may have come down to India to boost the morale of the IM operatives who were down and out following the various arrests of their cadres.

Police sources say that they are not sure whether Bhatkal is in India at the moment, but were trying to ascertain the same.

“We suspect that he may have come down in connection with this blast,” police also say.

Meanwhile, sources in the Anti Terrorist Squad said that they would be seeking the interrogation reports of the various Indian Mujahideen operatives who have been arrested following the blasts at Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi.

ATS sources told that they would access the interrogation report of Indian Mujahideen techie and media cell chief Mansoor Pheerbhoy, who was nabbed by the Mumbai [ Images ] police.

“The interrogation reports of Pheerbhoy, who hails from Pune, will help us get a better idea of the Pune module and how this blast was carried out,” sources note.

At present there is very little information regarding the persons who could have planted the bombs. The CCTV footage, which has been accessed by the police is being studied.

Currently it appears that more than one person could have visited the German Bakery and planted the bomb. It is clear that they were operatives of the Indian Mujahideen and were acting at the behest of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba.

All the possible angles that have been probed so far indicate that it was an operation by the IM. The investigators would be able to get a better picture by tomorrow, when they would get more inputs from the forensic laboratory which is examining the bomb which had traces of RDX and ammonium nitrate in it.

NIA will probe in case of international ramification

The National Investigation Agency, which was formed to investigate cases relating to terrorism, was not roped in for the investigation into the Pune blast.

Currently, it is the Mumbai Anti Terrorism Squad, Pune police and the Intelligence Bureau which is carrying out the probe into this case.

Union Home Secretary, G K Pillai who is monitoring the situation very closely, told that they are yet to ascertain whether there is an international ramification to this case.

Investigators are also closly studying whether this blast was part of an inter state operation, Pillai also added.

He said if there are indications of an international ramification or and inter-state operation, ‘we will surely rope in the NIA.’

The NIA was formed to deal with cases which had inter-state or international ramifications since ‘it would be in a better position to handle it.’

“At the moment the local agencies are doing its job. Let them continue and then lets see what comes out of it,” the home secretary said.

Speaking about the probe he said there was nothing much to reveal at the moment. “We will let you know in another two days,” he said.

Regarding the speech made by Jammat-ud-Duwa leader Hafiz Makki in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, in which he mentioned Pune as a target, Pillai said they are still analysing this and have not come to any conclusion as yet.

He further said that it was too early to say anything about the Pakistan link to this case. “We are looking into these aspects and also coordinating with the investigating agencies. We will be able to get a clearer picture on this in a couple of days,” he also added.

Blore cops to help Pune blast investigation

A team of the Bengaluru police left for Pune on Monday evening to collect leads regarding the investigation in the German Bakery blast case.

The Bengaluru police will share the information they have about terror outfit Indian Mujahideen’s operative Riyaz and his brother Iqbal Bhatkal, who have emerged as the prime suspects in the Pune blast case.

Sources in the Bengaluru police told that barring the missing integrated chips, the bomb used in the Pune blast was similar to the ones used in the Bengaluru serial blasts in 2008.

“We have managed to establish that the blasts in Bengaluru were carried out by the Indian Mujahideen. The presence of ammonium nitrate and the packaging of the bomb in both the places are very similar in nature. But the Bengaluru blast was triggered off by a timer device, while the Pune bomb went off with the help of a remote control,” said a source.

The Bengaluru police will also discuss the material assembled to make the bomb used in the blasts in the two cities with their Pune counterparts..

Meanwhile, a team of the Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad is likely to visit Delhi to interrogate IM operative Shahzad, who is in the custody of the Delhi police, after being arrested from Aazamgarh in Uttar Pradesh due to his links with the Delhi serial blasts and the Batla House encounter.

The investigating agencies had told that they have managed to get some information from the CCTV footage and it would be shown to the waiter who had claimed to have seen the men who planted the bomb. The footage showed that there were two men involved in planting the bomb, and one of them was talking away on the phone while placing the bag in the eatery. The bag exploded when a waiter tried to open it later, killing 9 people and injuring many others, on Saturday evening.

Tracking Riyaz, from Bhatkal to Pune

The day after terror ripped Pune, the needle of suspicion was on Mohsin Chaudhary. Based on further leads, the Intelligence Bureau sources now say Riyaz Bhatkal is equally responsible for the blast. So much so that the police forces of three states — Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala — have launched a manhunt for Bhatkal.

Riyaz hails from the coastal town of Karnataka, Bhatkal, which is around 400 km from Bangalore. A dossier on Bhatkal suggests that this man was never serious about jihad and his operations were only driven by money.

Bhatkal was a normal boy till the age of 18. He was never interested in school and dropped out after his seventh standard. He did odd jobs before he decided that needed to make some quick bucks.

Police officers, who dealt with Bhatkal, told that Riyaz was only lured by money and would go to any extent to earn it.

Bhatkal used to his advantage the fact that the place he hailed from was communally sensitive. Sources say for nearly 10 years, Bhatkal acted as a double agent where he passed on information regarding either communities. He was never faithful to any religion and all that mattered to him was money. Apart from this, he also was involved in petty crimes for which he has been arrested several times. However, the same cannot be said about his brother, Iqbal Bhatkal. Iqbal showed tendencies of fanatic nature since day one and he was more associated with the extremist factions.

However, Riyaz got in touch with several of these extremists through his brother and it is from here in 2004 that his journey into the Lashkar-e-Tayiba commenced.

Bhatkal, according to cops, does not fall under the bracket of an ideological terrorist. He falls under the bracket of militia, like an Ajmal Kasab who would undertake an operation mainly for money. His name first cropped up during the attack on the Indian Institute of Science. However, there was no evidence suggesting his role. Interestingly, he acted as a police informant during the time of this attack. He was summoned several times by the Bangalore police seeking information about attackers, but not much came out of this exercise.

Bhatkal’s entry into the big league started when the Lashkar planned setting up an Indian outfit. The ban on SIMI hurt the Lashkar badly and it was desperate to set up another outfit.

It was at this time that he came in contact with the likes of Mansoor Pheerbhoy and Mohsin Chaudhary. Bhatkal was given the overall charge of setting up the IM since they trusted his organization skills to a large extent. Moreover, Bhatkal built up a deadly network of disgruntled youth who he started to rope in to this outfit. He had held several meetings in Kerala and Pune to set up the IM. He dealt the most with Chaudhary with whom he set up the deadliest of the modules in Pune.

But Bhatkal had to leave the country when the heat turned on him. He slipped out and moved into Dubai and stayed there for a while before heading to Karachi, where he remained underground.

However, a couple of months ago, he decided to execute a series of attacks in India. He contacted both Mohsin and Shahzad in this connection and laid out a plan. Shahzad was asked to carry out a series of attacks in New Delhi at the BJP and Congress headquarters. With Chaudhary he discussed the Pune attack. At first they planned to target the Osho Ashram and the Chabhad House.

The sketches and plans for such an attack were already ready with the Lashkar since they had received data from David Headley, who surveyed the targets. However, following Headley’s arrest, this plan came out in the open and security was enhanced in these locations. The IM was getting desperate and there was a lot of pressure from their financers, the Lashkar to carry out a strike.

The strike at Pune was planned in such manner so that it could aim at affecting talks with Pakistan.

In this regard, Bhatkal managed to send in RDX from Pakistan to carry out the blasts. It is clear that the consignment had come in from Pakistan and the bomb was assembled in India itself. They did try to gain access to the Osho Ashram and Chabhad House but were unsuccessful in their attempt. The plan to attack the German Bakery was a last-minute decision and hence they decided to go ahead with this plan.

CCTV footage give pointers on Pune blast

A duo had planted the bomb inside the German bakery in Pune’s Koregaon Park locality, which killed 9 people and injured over 55 on Saturday evening, sources in the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad told based on the analysis of the CCTV footage.

The CCTV footage shows that one of the men, who had planted the bomb, was conversing over phone. However, investigators point out that it is too early to come to any conclusion as this fact will have to be cross checked with the waiter, who claimed to have seen the bombers.

We are relying on inputs from other agencies and also the Intelligence Bureau. We are on the trail of the Indian Mujahideen at the moment and are examining investigation reports of arrested IM activists, including banned outfit’s tech cell head, Mansoor Pheerbhoy, ATS sources said. Till date, 21 IM operatives have been arrested.

We have also sought more information on Riyaz Bhatkal and Mohsin Chaudhary of the IM, who have had the biggest role to play in this case, sources add.

Regarding the CCTV footage, sources point out that the images received were not very clear. The CCTV was placed in an opposite direction, as the German Bakery did not have one.

The ATS says that they have inputs suggesting that the bomb was triggered off by remote control and are even looking for a third person, who could be behind it, sources pointed out.

Meanwhile, Home ministry sources say that they are still trying to join the dots of the speech that was delivered by Hafiz Makki of the Jammat-ud-Duwa in which he made a specific mention of Pune being a target.

Remote control used in Pune blast

Fresh leads into the investigation into the Pune blast show that the bomb was triggered off by a remote control.

Investigating agencies told that initial reports would go on to suggest that the bomb may have been triggered off by a remote controlled device.

Earlier, investigating agencies had claimed that more than one person was present at the German Bakery to place the bag containing the bomb. These persons left the bag there and left the place.

However, a while later another person who had access to the remote control could have triggered off the bomb, sources also add. Police sources say that they would try and find out if the person who triggered the bomb was in the vicinity when the incident occurred. The CCTV footage would give a clearer picture on the same.

Another unique aspect noticed in this blast was that the bomb was triggered off without the use of an intergrated circuit. Such bombs without an intergrated circuit, which is used to trigger the bombs, have been used in the past in Jammu and Kashmir.

It appears that the Indian Mujahideen had deliberately avoided the use of intergrated circuits since the last few times when they tried using it, they backfired.

The bombs which were used in Bangalore and Surat contained integrated circuit chips to trigger them. However, both the attacks failed badly since the IC chips did not manage to create the impact as the power supply failed.

Experts pointed out that using of IC chips are very advanced in nature and if it works properly, the damage that is caused is immense. This technology was picked up from the Al Qaeda which first started the trend of using intergrated chips in a terrorist attack. However, the IM which decided to replicate this, did not achieve much success.