A team of the National Investigating Agency is looking at a possible link between the Pune blasts and some members of the Students Islamic Movement of India. Sources say that a gang of the SIMI from Madhya Pradesh could be behind the Pune blast and they are suspecting the same module which was part of the Khandwa jail break. A team of the NIA even visited Madhya Pradesh to question Abu Faisal the leader of the module and others who were with him. It is routine questioning based on suspicion an NIA official informed. However we are not ruling out the possibility of this module being behind the attack. The officer also informed that while the main members of the this module who had escaped from the Khandwa jail and had been rearrested are being questioned, they are also on the look out for five more of their friends who have gone missing after the jail break.
The name Abdus Subhan does send shivers up one’s spine. All of us know the manner in which he carried out blasts across India so blatantly that he had actually warned the police in Gujarat via email ten minutes before he carried out a series of blasts which left scores dead.
Subhan who worked as an editor for a publication owned by the Students Islamic Movement of India before it was banned was considered to be the technical head of the Indian Mujahideen. He was the one who recruited Mansoor Pheerbhouy a Pune based techie who was responsible for all those horrific mails which were sent out following a terror strike by the IM. Pheerobhouy a techie by profession threw up his Rs 16 lakh per year salary to join the Indian Mujahideen.
Can the Indian Mujahideen still strike? The top four who ran the outfit since the year 2009 have all been arrested and this without a doubt has made the outfit weaker, but then is it the end?
Let us look back at the outfit from the time it made its debut in the year 2006-2007. The year 2006 witnessed a major blast at Varanasi. At that point in time everyone was hunting for clues and while the names of some operatives did crop up, none could say with certainty that it was the Indian Mujahideen which had struck. In fact none of were really aware of the existence of this outfit and the blame went to the Students Islamic Movement of India. The year 2007, November 23 saw six blasts that rocked Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad. Just when the police were all set to blame the SIMI, came an announcement which announced the birth of the Indian Mujahideen. The audacious announcement by a set of very determined operatives came with a tag line, “catch us if you can, we are the Indian Mujahideen.” The Indian Mujahideen had decided to take on the establishment and said that many innocent languishing in jail were not being represented properly in the courts and hence they decided to carry out an attack on the judiciary.
The 300 page chargesheet filed against Indian Mujahideen operative, Yasin Bhatkal is more about his aspirations than what he really could do. Reading through the charges levelled against him by the National Investigation Agency, it appears as though he has lied his way through regarding a lot of aspects which unfortunately have found a mention in the chargesheet. Nuclear weapons, the Al-Qaeda link and also going against the ISI are very debatable issues and even the experts including officers in the Intelligence Bureau say it is one thing to aspire and a whole other aspect to actually do something.
Shaadi ki taariq mukarar ho gayi hai (the date of the wedding has been fixed)- This was the coded language of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba used on December 4th when they intended to bomb Delhi.
This intercept which was picked up by the Delhi police is what led to the busting of the Lashkar module. The conversation between Javed Baluchi a handler in Pakistan and Shahid Imam from Mewat suggested that when they spoke about the wedding date it meant that they were ready to strike.
While the NIA is finding it hard to elicit information out of Yasin Bhatkal, his aide Asaddulah Akthar is proving to be an easier person to deal with.
Akthar who was also arrested along with Bhatkal has reportedly told the National Investigation Agency that he had played a role in the 13/7 blasts, Pune attack, Dilsukhnagar and Varanasi blasts.
NIA sources tell rediff.com that Akthar was part of the inner ring formed by Yasin Bhatkal and was a foot soldier in all these attacks apart from helping them plan the attack as well.
The recent arrests by the Delhi police in which three youth were arrested has given the police a lot of information on the functioning of the Indian Mujahideen. While certain procedures pertaining to their operations have come out, the more important aspect has been the manner in which they are operating the Saudi Arabia module to carry out strikes in India.
The Delhi police have been questioning the three persons Asad Khan, Imran Khan and Sayed Feroze. While they have revealed details regarding their operation in which they planned on carrying out attacks at Bodhgaya and New Delhi, they have also revealed the close links they shared with operatives such as Fayaz Kagzai.
Former cadres of the Students Islamic Movement of India will be dumped and newer recruits will be chosen to join the Indian Mujahideen in a bid to resurrect the outfit and stay clear of any sort of police heat, the Delhi police have warned.
In the recently concluded meet of the state police chief’s held in New Delhi, the biggest point of discussion that came up was regarding the Indian Mujahideen. Although there were other issues that were discussed it was the role of this outfit which was taken up on priority.
It is without a doubt India’s deadliest outfits today, the police were told and each and every state in the country has been warned to keep a watch on the activities of the group since it has been trying to resurrect itself and carry out a spate of attacks.
Looking at the latest dossier on the Indian Mujahideen, it becomes clear that the outfit is not entirely operating on Indian soil. Earlier the entire leadership was in India and it was a full blown home grown outfit which relied heavily on former cadres of the SIMI. However today there is a shift in that pattern. The IM has deliberately decided to leave out former cadres of the SIMI and look for newer recruits. The police and the intelligence have a file on each former member of the SIMI and when one joins the group it becomes easier to target them. Hence they have decided to leave out the SIMI cadres and look for fresh faces.
The recent assassination plot that was busted by the Bangalore police would show that there is a pattern and there are many youth in the country who are troubled by the same old subject of atrocities. These youth are fresh faces and have had no connection with anyother group and the IM is looking for such persons to take into their fold, an officer from the Delhi police said.
The other significant development is that they have moved their command base out of India. Earlier it was entirely in India and there was one base in Pakistan controlled by Amir Reza Khan. However that too appears to have changed. They have been relying heavily on Middle Eastern countries. Morever there has also been substantial proof to show that the money is being routed through these countries and the pick up points of the IM have managed to circulate it around. There is no crunch of funds and they are aiming at bigger operations.
What is most worrying is that they are styling themselves exactly on the lines of a big international group. They were setting up a arms manufacturing unit in Delhi before it was busted. They are attempting similar operations in Maharashtra and Karnataka. They have a media cell, a charity unit, an extortion wing and also a very strong cyber cell. All these features are also seen in the Lashkar-e-Tayiba which is considered to be the mother unit of the Indian Mujahideen.
The Intelligence Bureau warns that the problematic areas are Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Bihar and Gujarat. There are signs to show that there has been activity in these states. The funds are however dropping in at Kerala only from where it is distributed to other states. There are many so called charitable organisations especially in Kerala which have acted as a collection point for the IM.
An Intelligence Bureau official says that off late they have found that the largest number of cadres have been picked up from Pune and Mangalore. There have been a spate of low intensity blasts in the recent past and these are just signs of telling the agencies that they are very much around and also such sort of attacks does attract new cadres into their fold. The low intensity blasts are not something that one must take lightly. It does appear that the group has no expertise left in it and these are acts of desperation. It could well be a ploy to distract the agencies who are made to beleive that the outfit is no longer strong. In fact what the agencies have found is everytime there is a low intensity blast, the source of fundings have gone up and many newer recruits have joined the IM.
The other approach adopted by the IM is what has left the agencies wondering about their new modus operandi. They are relatively quiet after an operation and unlike the previous attacks of three years back they have not sent out mails or proudly proclaimed that they are behind it. These are all distraction tactics, the IB points out and at the moment they need to carry out attacks but also maintain a low key as they do not want any sort of heat on them.
The command structure of the IM remains pretty much the same. Riya and Yasin Bhatkal are beleieved to have escaped to the United Arab Emirates and are said to be guiding operations from there. Yasin Bhatkal who is now wanted by the police is still in India and is taking care of the operations over here. The likes of Abdus Subhan who was a tech genius in the IM is said to be in Pakistan, but his role in the IM is not very visible at the moment.
The IB says that the problem areas which have been mentioned above need to keep their guard very high. While Pune has always been a breeding ground for the IM, it is Mangalore which is worrying the agencies more. Karnataka has seen a couple of strange incidents in the past and the recent assasination plot is just a reminder of how the mindset in the state is changing. In the past too the IM has used Hubli in Karnataka as a launch pad for their operations. Moreover this state also houses Bhatkal, the home of Riyaz, Yasin and Iqbal and hence one could say that the state is no stranger to this group.
All eyes are on a city called Hubli in Northern Karnataka from where a big module which was attempting various assassinations of high profile personalities was busted. In this entire plot which is being investigated by the Bangalore police, five of the persons who were arrested are from Hubli, which is considered to be the commercial capital of Northern Karnataka.
When one speaks about Hubli, it is largely attached to communal riots and the situation has always been vulnerable for quite some time now. Many in the police state that there were smaller modules in Hubli which were looking to launch attacks, but then the situation turned from bad to worse following the controversial Idgah Maidan issue. This land which was being used by the Muslims was challenged by some other Hindu outfits who wanted to hoist the National Flag. This issue had become a boiling pot for quite some time and tensions always remained regarding this issue.
However the most important development at Hubli could be the massive convention of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India which took place a few months after its ban. The SIMI following the ban branched into two outfits and the radical form of this group was headed by Safdar Nagori. This was the same faction which the police believe became the Indian Mujahideen. The meeting at Hubli was chaired by Nagori who had allegedly spoken about a series of attacks that needed to be carried out in various parts of the country. During the investigation of one Kamruddin Nagori he had revealed that several attacks had been planned and it had been decided here that there would be a more radical approach to SIMI as they felt that the ban on the group was not justified. The had allegedly discussed that attacks would be carried out in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat. After this meeting some material for the attacks had also been transported from coastal Karnataka and was kept in safe houses in Hubli. Interestingly all these meetings were held near the Hubli bus stand which is a busy area and this helped them avoid the heat. The busy location was chosen deliberately, so that no one would doubt their activities. During this camp that was held in Hubli there were the likes of IM operative Abdus Subhan who went on to become the technical mastermind of the group.
In addition to this there have also been other incidents in Hubli which has given this city a terror tag. In the year 2000, there was a bomb blast at a Church which was carried out by the Deendar Anjuman group.
Apart from this there have also been major arrests of operatives such as Asadullah Abubukar, a medical student, Mohammad Asif, also a medical student and Riazuddin Nasir who was planning a series of attacks in Goa. All these persons were part of that meeting of the SIMI which was held in Hubli. It was during that meeting that it was also decided that Hubli and its surrounding areas would be treated as a safe hideout and they would use the large forest cover to carry out their planning and other operations.
Hubli has also seen a reverse reaction and there was group known as the Tiger’s group which was formed to fight against the SIMI activists. A person by the name Nagraj Jambagi had stated that he wanted to target SIMI activists. In order to show his power he had even planted a bomb in the Hubli court in the year 2008. He had also planted three bombs on the national highway, but for the luck of the people none of these bombs went off. Jambagi who was taken into jail was however killed mysteriously as the investigations commenced into his operations.
Were the Chinnaswamy stadium blasts and the Jama Masjid firing incident in any way connected? It has been ascertained that the incidents are inter linked to the extent that it was the Indian Mujahideen which carried out the attack.
However there has been a lot of confusion over certain aspects regarding these aspects since it has been the fringe groups in the Indian Mujahideen which have been carrying out the recent spate of attacks.
Today the police, Delhi and Bangalore say that there are some leads in the case with the arrest of persons from Bihar and Chennai. While two persons were arrested in Bihar a week back, some arrests were made in Chennai recently. All these persons are alleged to be IM operatives and today the Delhi Special Police has taken over the case and is probing it.
The four men who could be key to cracking both the cases are Ajmal and Jamil from Bihar and Mohammad Rahman and Irshad Khan who were arrested from Chennai. The Delhi police is currently questioning these men after which their counterparts from Bangalore would continue with the probe.
The Delhi police when contacted are not prepared to give away much regarding the progress of the investigations. They say that these youth were involved in recruitments of youth and some of these youth could possibly involved with both the cases. However the police have been able to ascertain that both these attacks were carried out by the same module.
The Bangalore police on the other hand say that they would wait for the interrogation reports of these youth following which they would conduct their probe. During their independent probe they came to the conclusion that the Chinnaswamy blasts were carried out by the Indian Mujahideen and Riyaz Bhatkal was the man who masterminded it.
There are a series of pending cases in which the police had not really managed any concrete breakthrough. However this time around the Delhi police in particular feel that these youth could be their answer to cracking the case. These youth have not only been in the know of these attacks, but have also managed to recruit around 12 youth from Nepal to further operations of the IM in India. They have been part of the exercise to rebuild the group and the police are hopeful that they could get more vital leads so that this exercise would stop.
In addition to this the police would also look to get clues in the unsolved German Bakery blasts case which took place in Pune. The Maharashtra police have remained pretty clueless on this and all they were able to tell was that the operation was carried out by the Indian Mujahideen. Going by the previous record of the IM, it gives one the indication that it is the same module that operates in Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka and Kerala. All these modules have been under the control of the Bhatkal brothers. For the time being the police say that their primary focus is on cracking the Jama Masjid and the Chinnaswamy blasts case and the Pune angle would be probed in due course of time after informing their counterparts in Mahashtra.
Apart from cracking both the these cases, the police are also hunting for clues regarding one of the biggest operatives in the IM-Abdus Subhan. Rahman the youth who was arrested in Chennai is believed to have helped Subhan flee the country. It is alleged that in the year 2008, he had provided all assistance to Subhan to flee the country and enter into Nepal from where he left to Pakistan and continues to be there till date.