Why was Lashkar, SIMI kept out of the Samjautha Express probe?

Pic: Sify

A 2008 narco analysis test of a SIMI leader resurfaced on Monday in which he is heard speaking about the role of his outfit and Pakistan in the Samjautha Express Blasts case. There were three tests in all that were carried out at Bengaluru. Safdar Nagori his brother Kamruddin and Amil Pervez were subjected to the narco analysis test. In the test he speaks about the direct link between the SIMI and Samjautha Express blasts of February 2007 in which 68 persons were killed.

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Samjautha blasts case: Pak seeks 4 months time to produce witnesses

Photo courtesy: Sify

Pakistan sought more time to send 13 witnesses in the Samjautha Express blast case. A special court of the NIA at Panchkula had issued summons to 13 persons and handed over the same to Pakistan.

Sadhvi Pragya cleared of Joshi murder

Sadhwi Pradnya Thakur. Photo courtesy: http://www.outlookindia.com/
Sadhwi Pradnya Thakur. Photo courtesy: http://www.outlookindia.com/

After an ordeal of six long years, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur will be given a clean chit in the Sunil Joshi murder case. Sunil Joshi who has been named as an accused in the Malegaon and Samjautha Express blasts case was found murdered at Dewas on December 29 2007.

The National Investigation Agency which was handling this case had named Pragya Singh Thakur, Harshad Solanki, Vasudev Parmar, Anand Raj Kataria and Ramcharan Patel in the case. However during the course of the investigation the NIA found nothing on the above mentioned persons and have now decided to drop charges against them in the Joshi murder case.

Continue reading “Sadhvi Pragya cleared of Joshi murder”

NIA to probe Chowdhary in Mecca Masjid case

Photo courtesy: luthfispace.blogspot.com
Photo courtesy: luthfispace.blogspot.com

The National Investigation Agency which arrested Rajendra Chowdhary one of the accused in the Samjautha train blasts case will take him to Hyderabad to probe his role in Mecca Masjid blasts case.

An officer in the NIA told rediff.com that he will be taken to Hyderabad and for this purpose a prisoner’s transit warrant is being readied. We will need to interrogate him for a couple of days in connection with the Samjautha case and then will take him to Hyderabad for the Mecca Masjid case. His role in the Ajmer blast too will be studied, but top on the priority for us now are the Samjautha and Mecca Masjid case, the NIA official also pointed out. Continue reading “NIA to probe Chowdhary in Mecca Masjid case”

The Sunil Joshi mystery files

The National Investigating Agency which is probing the mysterious murder of Sunil Joshi have an uphill task ahead of them. They have taken over almost all cases in which Hindu extremists have been suspected and in the words of Home Minister P Chidambaram, the agency would take all these cases to its logical end.

The NIA has in its possession various details regarding this case and has also questioned accused no 5, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur at the Byculla jail on a couple of ocassions.

Although this is a case of murder, the NIA says it is extremely crucial for them to crack as it would help solve the various terror cases in which Hindu fanatics have been involved.

There is already a chargesheet which has been filed in this case prior to the NIA taking over. The NIA was specifically asked to take over this case as it was found to be directly linked with the various other incidents of terror ranging from Mecca Masjid to Samjautha Express which the NIA is probing. NIA sources say that it is tough to say at the moment whether they would go along with the existing chargesheet or would file an additional chargesheet in this case.

The 45 year old Sunil Joshi was found murdered under mysterious circumstances in the year 2007 at Dewas in Madhya Pradesh. The initial probe makes it clear that it was his close aides who murdered him and the reasons behind the same are extremely murky. It was a tussle between him and his close aides which led to his murder. There has also been an angle to this case in the past where it was said that he was closely associated with SIMI members and was trying to use them for his operations and this could have angered his aides which prompted them to undertake this operation.

The NIA says that the primary angle to this probe would commence with his falling out with the RSS who called him Guruji in their circles when he was alive. He was considered to be a dynamic person and was a blue eyed boy to them and hence the falling out is extremely strange and suspicious. Even after his murder the RSS made it a point to visit his home and garland his photo, but then that stopped the moment the RSS was being linked to his murder.

Joshi was part of the module that carried out the Samjautha, Mecca Masjid and Malegaon attacks since day one. In fact the confession which was made by Aseemanand and later withdrawn speaks about the role played by Joshi in all these case and hence that makes him an important fry in the probe.

The more important aspect for the NIA is to crack the exact reason for the murder of Joshi. Sources say that he was no ordinary man who they could have just murdered over a very trivial issue. There is much more to it and it was done at the behest of several very important people involved in this terror nexus.

Going by Joshi’s record it becomes clear that he was one of the most crucial persons in this terror rung and it was thanks to him that so many operations were carried out with such ease. He had roped in Kalasanghra who is currently on the run for all his operations and the final status of the investigation also points to the nexus between the two. They also managed to rope in Dange into their fold and right from the year 2001 they have been carrying out attacks together. They started off on a small scale and then moved on to the bigger operations investigators point out. The trio were also blamed for the murder of a Congress tribal leader, Pyare Singh in the year 2003.

NIA sources say that he probably is one of the most important persons in this entire network and it is unfortunate that he is dead as he would have had a lot of answers. Now this is what his killers were most worried about and that is he had too much information on him. Some even point out that he had started to become a bit arrogant and had often threatened to spill the beans on the operations. Although though the RSS formally expelled him investigations continued to show that he had been in contact with some of the members and this had started worrying a couple of members who were in touch with him.

What the NIA says is that those who were behind his murder were also in the know of his operations. Although investigations are being conducted into these cases, the NIA is yet to find out details about political backing, funding and also local modules which helped facilitate the various incidents of terror carried out by this module.

Currently the NIA has in its custody a long list of people, but then again the agency is well aware that these are nothing but puppets and the big wigs are still out in the open. None of these persons in custody have revealed the big names as yet and the agency feels that closing in on the accused in this case would force these persons to reveal the big names involved in this case.

It is once again not an easy case, the NIA says. There has been a lot of meddling that has taken place. Certain important documents such as call logs and sim cards have gone missing. There are some documents which the CBI was in possession of and this has been used to build up the case. There are some call logs and diary entries to show some of the persons Joshi called despite him being expelled. We would build on these leads and finally close the case, the NIA points out.

Terror probe-Cops want no more goof-ups

The investigations into the four incidents of terror- Jama Masjid, 13/7, German Bakery and Chinnaswamy blasts may appear as though they are taking longer than usual to crack. The suspects are in custody(most of them), the leads are available, but investigators from the three different states probing these cases say they want to be doubly careful before jumping to any conclusion.

The initial investigations into the Jama Masjid, Ajmer, Malegaon and Samjautha Express which pointed towards Islamic organisations and then the dramatic turn around is an embarassment that the entire police force would like to forget about. Whether probes were  politically motivated probe is something that every officer denies. We just acted on the leads that were available at that time. However the errors were rectified, a senior officer told rediff.com.

Looking at the ongoing probes, it is clear that the Indian Mujahideen had a role to play in all these incidents. But the police want to be doubly sure. The police do manage to pick up leads and even arrest very many persons. But the conviction rate in terror cases is a poor 20 per cent and this is one of the biggest causes for worry. Moreover in the past couple of cases the prosecution has spent more time un doing a wrong police probe rather than focusing on the real case on hand. In addition to this the prosecution is putting in more time fighting cases of compensation attached to these cases. If the case is water tight right from the start then there would be no such issues, a police officer states.

Cracking the above mentioned four cases is of utmost importance for all the agencies that are looking into these cases. There are many pros and cons attached to the investigations of these cases. If one may notice, the police have not picked up people without proper verification. They have taken their time and only when they had a specific input did they go about and make those arrests in Chennai. What the police have realised is that the IM in particular has been thriving on a sympathy factor. In the past couple of years, there have been mistakes and many innocents have gone behind bars. Such incidents have only led to the IM making merry and roping in a couple of more youth and strengthening their outfit. Moreover what the police feel is that if wrong arrests are made, it only makes most of them come back with a vengeance and they turn into ideological terrorists which makes the job harder.

Looking at the ongoing probe into all the above mentioned cases, it appears that it was a module from the coastal town of Bhatkal which held the key to these operations. The police claim that it is Yaseen Bhatkal who was behind all these attacks and the man is very much in India and is on the lose. His name is now cropping up in the 13/7 blasts as well. Sources in the Maharashtra ATS say that they are exploring the possibility of his involvement and also the fact that a module from Bhatkal carrying out the operation. It is more theoretical at the moment and we are still working on the leads. When one takes into account the German Bakery blasts, it was clear that it was none other than the Bhatkal module which carried out the attack. The familiarity with the terrain, and the connection that the Bhatkal brothers had with the state of Maharashtra made it an obvious operation. The police are trying to join the dots regarding these aspects and are trying to crack the 13/7 blasts. Moreover the ATS also believes that a cell phone that was seized during the Chennai operation could provide the vital clues to the case they are dealing with.

In so far as the Chinnaswamy blasts case is concerned, sources in the Bangalore police say that there are some leads which suggest that it was an operation planned by Yaseen Bhatkal. It has been found that some youth had stationed themselves in Chickmagalur before smuggling in the explosives into Bangalore before planting them outside the Chinnaswamy stadium.

The Delhi police say that it was the same module which carried out all these attacks including the ones at Jama Masjid and also Pune. However what the Delhi police are trying to find out is more than just the existing cases on hand. They are trying to find out as to how exactly the IM is re-grouping. Moreover sources in the Indian Intelligence Bureau also point out that there is a dire need to get all details on the Bihar module as it is the one which is posing the major danger leading up to the revival of the IM. The teams from Maharashtra and also Karnataka will need to wait a while longer before seeking the body warrant of the accused who are in the custody of the Delhi police before they could go about cracking the cases that they have been entrusted with.

Parliament attack and the terror that followed

Ten years have gone since India witnessed one of its most embarrassing attacks- The attack on the Indian Parliament. After an attack of such a magnitude one would have expected a complete clean up of the system.
If we look at the chronology of the attacks that have taken place after the parliament attack, it paints quite a pathetic picture.

Sept. 24, 2002: Akshardham temple attack in Gujarat in which 31 people were killed.

March 13, 2003: Bomb blast on commuter train in Bombay in which 11 persons were killed.

Aug. 25, 2003: Twin car bombings in Mumbai left at least 52 people dead

July 5, 2005: An attack at the Ram Janmabhoomi complex.

Oct. 29, 2005: Three major blasts in Delhi in which 59 persons were killed.

March 7, 2006: Serial blasts at Varanasi in which 28 persons died.

July 11, 2006: 200 dead in serial blasts at Mumbai. Bombs were planted in trains and incident referred to as the train blasts.

Sept. 8, 2006: 37 dead in Malegaon blasts.

February 18 2007– Samjautha Blasts

May 18, 2007: Mecca Masjid blasts at Hyderabad in which 13 persons were killed.

Aug. 25, 2007: Twin blasts at Hyderabad in which 42 persons were killed.

October 11 2007- Blast at Ajmer

November 23 2007- Blasts at a court in Uttar Pradesh.

May 13, 2008: Serial blasts at Jaipur in which 63 persons were killed.

July 25, 2008: Bangalore serial blasts in which one person was killed.

July 26, 2008: Serial blasts at Ahmedabad in which 45 persons were killed.

Sept. 13, 2008: Serial blasts in New Delhi in which 21 persons were killed.

Sept. 27, 2008: Blast in a New Delhi flower market in which one person died.

November 26 2008- One of the worst incidents on Indian soil, the infamous 26/11 attack in which over 150 persons lost their lives.

February 13 2010- Blasts at Pune’s German Bakery in which 17 persons lost their lives.

September 19 2010– Firing and blast outside Delhi’s Jama Masjid.

December 7 2010– Blast at Varanasi leaves one toddler dead

July 13 2011– Blasts in Mumbai in which 27 persons lost their lives.

September 11 2011– Blast at Delhi High Court in which 11 persons were killed.

After the Parliament attack– The Parliament attack made India realize the threat of terrorism and also woke the nation up to the capability that Pakistan really had. India realized that terror groups from across the border were capable of hitting at the epi centre of the country. While India did manage to tackle the issue of terrorism to a great extent emerging from across the border, it however sttlipped up where the issue of home grown terror was concerned. Looking above at the chronology one gets to see this picture.

There was an emergence of two types of terrorism after the Parliament attack. The Home Grown jihad and also a counter attack in the form of terrorism by Hindu radicals. There was a great deal of dominance by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in particular post the Parliament attack. However what Pakistan began to realize is that if it continued to use its own forces then there was a great chance of things getting out hand and it snow balling into a full fledged war. They had issues galore in India such as the Babri Masjid demolition and also the Godhra incident to stir up the sentiments of some Muslims. The immediate target was the Students Islamic Movement of India. The ISI did manage to tap into the more radical elements in this organization and train them for terror operations. This eventually led to the ban of the entire group which only enhanced the resolve of some of the radical elements.

However the SIMI was unable to function for too long as the security agencies were on their trail. There was a gradual break away of the SIMI and it emerged into the deadly Indian Mujahideen. Although some members of this group were readying themselves for the big job since the year 2003 itself, their emergence was seen only in the year 2007 during the Uttar Pradesh court blasts. After these blasts a mail was sent out in the name of the IM. Although no one took them seriously at that time, they did manage to prove that they were the next big force to reckon with. Intelligence Bureau officials had even termed them as the SIMI party II.

While the IM went about its operations in the most brazen manner using both technology and ideology to the fullest, the country was witness to another form of terrorism. The spate of attacks on Indian soil by Muslim radicals both from India and Pakistan angered a couple of Hindu radicals. There were a series of blasts at Malegaon, Mecca Masjid and also on the Samjautha Express. The immediate blame after these blasts once again pointed towards Islamic organizations. However it was only in the later part of 2008 did another picture come out. The Maharashtra ATS then headed by the late Hemanth Karkare while investigating the matter found that it was a group led by Colonel Purohith, Sunil Joshi and Sadhvi Pragya Singh which executed these attacks. The later part of the investigation also went on to reveal that there were more persons such as Swami Aseemanand who were involved in these attacks.

Today India cannot say with much pride that it has dealt a deadly blow to terrorists. It has multiple problems on hand and terrorism from both factions are equally dangerous. However while speaking to a couple of Intelligence Bureau officials, they would still rate the threat from across the border as deadlier. While home grown terrorism would continue to cause a nuisance value to our country, the bigger attacks would always emerge out of Pakistan and the 26/11 attack is proof of the same, they point out.

Aseemanand and the money trail

The National Investigating Agency which is investigating the Mecca Masjid blasts of Hyderabad is currently on the money trail that led up to the execution of these attacks. Although the National Investigating Agency has found that it was Swami Aseemanand who handed over the money to execute the blasts, it is clear that he was not the man who was primarily responsible for raising those funds.

Although investigators have been looking into the flow of funds into the Ashram that he ran, they however add that he was entrusted with the task of stocking the funds and not raising them. The conspirators felt that it was best to stock the money in the ashram since they are exempted from any normal inspection. Moreover it was felt that the money which would be stocked in the ashram could be passed off as a donation and there would be no real suspicion on the same.

Today the NIA says that they have found evidence to show that Aseemanand had handed over Rs 25000 to Sunil Joshi to carry out the Mecca Masjid blasts. Similar transactions had been made during the Malegaon and also the Samjautha Express blasts, the investigators also pointed out.

The money trail into these incidents have not been nailed as yet by investigators. Probe agencies have been back and forth on this aspect and no real break through has been found where the money trail is concerned. It has been established that it was the ashram being run at the Dangs in Gujarat was the point where all the money landed. There were several like minded operatives who were part of this operation and each one had a small role to play in raising the funds. However they all wanted Aseemanand to handle the money as they felt that the trail would never lead up to him. There is a lot of money that has come into his ashram through donations as he was undertaking some work for the tribals. It is pretty hard to find out what money was finally used to execute these blasts.

Probe agencies prior to the NIA had claimed when asked that the most of the money for these operations came through donations. Moreover these persons ran odd businesses through which they raised money. In the Nanded blasts case it was found that the accused persons were running a gym and the money that was made through that was finally used for the flop Nanded operation. The police have however not found any similar modus operandi in the Mecca Masjid or Samjautha blasts case.

The police are also looking to see if the money which legitimately came into these places was diverted for such terror operations. This would be part of our investigation the NIA says as nothing very concrete regarding the trail has come up as yet. All Aseemanand’s probe has revealed is that he had paid Rs 25000 to Sunil Joshi in the presence of a businessman by the name Bharath Bhai at a place called Valsad in Gujarat.

The primary focus of the NIA at the moment is on the Mecca Masjid blasts case. They are trying to find if there is some local help that helped arrange the money and also the logistics. There has been allegations by Muslim organisations in Hyderabad that there are some Hindu groups which have taken a violent turn and have helped in organising these attacks. The police which has taken into account these allegations have however not found a dedicated module in Hyderabad which could have helped carry out this blast. There may be one or two persons who were in the know of this operation, but it was largely staged and planned by the Sunil Joshi gang which operated mainly out of Northern India, the police also claim.

The NIA claims that the Ajmer/Malegaon/Samjautha express attacks were all part of the same module. In the days to come a couple more arrests could be expected and this we hope would lead us up to the money trail, investigators also point out.

The extremist turf war in Nepal

The chargesheet in the Samjautha Express blasts case which was filed recently states that two crucial players in the case are still absconding. Ramji Kalsanghra and Sandeep Dange are two very crucial players, not only in this case but also in those incidents relating to the Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blasts.

The National Investigating Agency does realise the importance of nabbing both these men and say that a finality to this entire terror cycle can be attained only once these two are in custody.

The NIA is on a hot trail of these two men, but the more important question is where are these men hiding. Some intelligence inputs go on to suggest that the moment was heat was up, they managed to slip into Nepal. This is not the first time that a person from this module has taken shelter in Nepal. Praveen Muthalik who is an accused in the Malegaon blasts too has taken the same route. He was however nabbed when he made a visit to India a couple of months back.

The Nepal corridor has been often discussed and this used to be a primary route for ISI sponsored terror groups. However there is now a clear turf war on in this country between the two modules-one from India and the other from Pakistan. According to sources in the Intelligence Bureau, most of the Pakistan based modules have now shifted operations to Bangladesh since they find that to be a safer haven.

When some fringe elements within the Abhinav Bharath set out to carry out terror attacks one of the aspects that was discussed was relating to the hideouts. Every terror group when it commences operations takes into consideration this very important aspect since they need to find a safe haven once the attack is carried out.

These elements had discussed the possibility of Nepal being a hide out once operations were completed. The main issue at that time however was that the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Dawood Gang were using this base extensively and they did not want any clash with them. Over the years, they started to set up modules within Nepal and also created a safe route to slip out once an attack was carried out. This group however did not exercise this option for quite sometime since all the attacks that were being carried out by them were being attributed to the Muslims. However when the investigations took a different turn, some of the key men involved in the attacks began moving into Nepal. For this group Nepal was the best option since it is a familiar terrain for them. The language, the culture were similar and hence they found it easier to gel with the locals there and remain undercover.

Once these modules in Nepal were activated there were changes in the Lashkar modules. There was a clash between the two modules and this prompted the Lashkar to close down several of its modules and shift into Bangladesh.The Lashkar too found this to be a better option when compared to Nepal since their operatives were finding it more comfortable to be in Bangladesh once again due to the similarities in cultures.

Investigations into the Samjautha, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts have gone on to show that there are very few modules within India. These men did thrive on the moral support of some people. Moreover it was also learnt that they did want to keep their operations a secret and hence did not involve too many people. Right from the planning stages, to the logistics and then the execution, the operations were known only to a hand full of people. The plan was to build up more modules within India over a period of time while they had decided to use all the modules created in Nepal as hide outs.

The NIA is however doing a proper check on the whereabouts of the two absconding men and are even ready to bring them down from Nepal. There are no major issues on the diplomatic front to bring down criminals and hence this task should not be difficult. However they would want to be 100 per cent sure before they can make a final move. The NIA does realise that the probe will hit a road block if these two men are not nabbed and hence the trail on them is really hot.