Based on intelligence reports the police now say that the masterminds of the Varanasi blasts could be two men by the names, Asadullah Akhthar and Dr Shahnawaz. In addition to this they have also named the Bhatkal brothers to be behind this attack.
If the police are able to establish this then that would mean that this entire attack has emanated out of Sharjah. Iqbal Bhatkal, Dr Shahnawaz and Asadullah as per reports of the Intelligence bureau are all in Sharjah at the moment. While tracking the movements of prime operative of Riyaz Bhatkal who is the brother of Iqbal, the investigating agencies have found that he too has frequented Sharjah several times from Karachi where he is primarily based.
According to preliminary leads which have been mentioned by the Mumbai police, the Bhatkal brothers helped plan the operation while Shahnawaz and Asadullah executed the attack.
Iqbal Bhatkal or Iqbal Shahbandri who hails from the coastal town of Bhatkal in Karnataka went absconding two years back from his home town. He was accused of operating for the IM along with his brother Riyaz and the moment the police stepped up the hunt for this man, he went missing. Although people at his native claim that he left the country since he was framed and feared police arrest. However according to the investigators, Iqbal ran the module in Pune following his brothers departure and was even involved in recruiting cadres for their modules both in Maharashtra and Pune.
The first time the names of Shahnawaz and Asadullah cropped up was during the Delhi serial blasts and later once again during the Batla House encounter. Today the two of them are in Sharjah according to intelligence reports and it is said that the attack could have been masterminded from there.
Dr Shahnawaz an MMBS and Asadullah a pharmacist both hail from the town of Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh and began their association with terror when they first joined the Students Islamic Movement of India. However the duo later branched into the Indian Mujahideen have been part of that group for around four years now.
When the 27 year old Shahnawaz’s brother Mohammad Saif was arrested in connection with the Batla house encounter, the IB had sent out warning signals of a possible aggression by him. The IB had said that he would try and help re-group the IM in order to avenge the Batla House encounter. Shanawaz is not new to Varanasi. He is believed to have frequented that place many times when he stayed at Lucknow for two years while working at a hospital as a doctor.
Asadullah on the other hand left India after the Delhi blasts in the year 2008. Information available regarding him suggests that he was the one who had assembled the bombs for the Delhi blasts. According to the IB, Asadullah shares a longer relationship with the IM when compared to Shahnawaz. He was one of the core members who was part of the core group of the IM when it was founded. His first tryst with terror was during the Jaipur blasts in which he has been named as one of the accused.
His strongest case is however the Delhi serial blasts in which he has been accused of planting the bombs at Greater Kailash.