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From Karachi to Chennai: How a module was busted

From Karachi to Chennai: How a module was busted

Author: Pranab Dhal Samanta
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: December 7, 2011
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/from-karachi-to-chennai-how-a-module-was-busted/884416/0

Introduction: What is different in the recent pan-India arrest of six IM operatives over five days is the close coordination between different forces, helping join the dots faster

Mohammed Adil alias Ajmal, the latest Pakistani terrorist held in India, was all set to send alleged Indian Mujahideen operatives Mohammed Qateel Siddiqui and Gayur Ahmad Jamali to Pakistan for further training when the police caught up with them.

Ajmal had already arranged passports and travel documents of these two men from north Bihar. However, this time, the intelligence agencies and police moved faster, arresting six while efforts are on to nab the rest.

Sources attribute this to better coordination, with the Delhi Police taking the initiative to share information with security agencies at the right time rather than being protective about it. From what is emerging, there were two separate surveillances on - one by the Central security agencies on Ajmal, since October last year, and the other a focused Delhi Police effort tracking Siddiqui. In fact, security agencies did not know of the name Ajmal or Mohammed Adil. They were tracking him as Waleed, an alleged Pakistani terror hand operating out of Kathmandu who, their investigations had shown, had moved to north Bihar.

The Delhi Police, on the other hand, had been monitoring Siddiqui for the past four months. They found that he was present in Pune during the German Bakery blasts, in Bangalore when an attack was made on the Chinnaswamy Stadium and in Delhi when the Jama Masjid firing happened.

There were other details on his locations that made mere coincidence seem implausible. It was with this body of information that the Delhi Police approached the Central security agencies in November first week.

Ajmal has told interrogators he was initially sent to Nepal by Iqbal and Riyaz Bhatkal to recruit Muslims who could be sent to India through Bihar to carry out terror attacks.

After spending months in Nepal, he claims to have got back to the Bhatkal brothers saying that there was not much hope of success with Nepali Muslims, and to have suggested that he be allowed to enter India and find recruits. Ajmal was given the go-ahead. Since February, sources said, his trips to Darbhanga, Madhubani, Purnea and Samastipur became very frequent, a fact that was picked up by intelligence agencies.

Ajmal is alleged to have used seven SIM cards, with the one he used the most in Bihar obtained under the name 'Ranpreet Paswan'. The Delhi Police also recovered an election identity card from him along with $625.

Siddiqui from Darbhanga was among those in touch with Ajmal, and when the Delhi Police shared information on him with the Central security agencies, the latter realised that Waleed and Ajmal or for that matter Mohammed Adil were the same person. This completed the bigger picture of a larger module, with Yasin Bhatkal or Yasin Ahmad Siddibappa running as a common thread through it.

Ajmal says he spotted Gayur Ahmed Jamali, who was held a day before him in Bihar, for the first time during a lecture on Islam in one of the local "institutions".

Central agencies knew that Ajmal was in touch with one Imran, a contact provided to him from Pakistan by the Bhatkal brothers. What they did not know was that Imran was Yasin Bhatkal. They now also know that Ajmal came down to Delhi to meet Imran.

The monitoring of Siddiqui, who was in touch with Imran and frequently mentioned his other identities, helped crack the module further. Investigators moved in after close to three weeks of monitoring of Ajmal and Siddiqui along with sharing of extensive information from months of previous surveillance.

Initially with one of the MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) factions in Karachi, Ajmal has told investigators he was very motivated and wanted a more ambitious platform as well as weapons training. This led him to the Jaish-e-Mohammed in Bahawalpur, where he was trained as a shooter under the stewardship of Mufti Rauf, brother of Maulana Masood Azhar. However, after the attempted assassination of former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf caused the JeM to lie low, Ajmal returned to Karachi after training and began to look for other patrons.

Ajmal has claimed that one Gilani introduced him to the Bhatkal brothers. The Bhatkals were reportedly impressed with his high level of motivation and sent him to Nepal.

Once he entered India, sources said, the idea was to create a new-look IM. Yasin was already a competent bombmaker and Ajmal was expected to give an added edge as a shooter. His first major effort appears to have been the attack on tourists at Jama Masjid in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games. Siddiqui was said to have been with him, and the police are now trying to find the weapon used in the attack.

Investigators believe Ajmal was trying to arrange papers for Siddiqui and Jamali to go to Pakistan to get training as shooters. They were, however, caught before the plans worked out.

It was Jamali's arrest which was critical to ensuring that Ajmal did not have a chance to escape as he had given surveillance teams the slip several times. Jamali, arrested on November 24, confirmed that Ajmal would be present at a hideout in Madhubani that security agencies had zeroed in upon. The next morning, the police nabbed Ajmal.

However, Yasin Bhatkal still managed to escape their clutches in Chennai, apparently by a couple of hours. Efforts are on in five states - Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bihar and Tamil Nadu - to apprehend members of the remaining "sub-modules" of this network. Top of the hunt remains Yasin who, security agencies believe, could still be in India.

The Arrests

The module is believed to have been active for the past two years and was planning an attack on Bangalore on December 6, the Babri Masjid anniversary. It was put together by Yasin Bhatkal alias Yasin Ahmad Siddibappa alias Shahrukh, a top Indian Mujahideen operative who escaped police clutches narrowly.

Mohammed Qateel Siddiqui, 27: Originally from Darbhanga, he was being monitored by the Delhi Police for four months. Surveillance showed his presence in Pune at the time of the German Bakery blast, in Bangalore when the Chinnaswamy blast took place and in Delhi at the time of the Jama Masjid firing. He was in touch with one 'Imran', another alias for Yasin Bhatkal. Was arrested from Delhi on November 22.

Gauhar Aziz Khomani, 31: Picked up in Delhi a day after Siddiqui's arrest, he too belongs to Darbhanga.

Gayur Ahmad Jamali, 21: Belongs to Madhubani and arrested from Darbhanga on November 24. It was on his confirmation that security agencies moved in and arrested Mohd Adil, a Pakistani, from Madhubani.

Mohd Adil alias Ajmal, 40: From Karachi, trained by Jaish as a shooter, and sent by the Bhatkal brothers first to Nepal and then to India to recruit local Muslims for terror attacks. Had arranged papers and was planning to send Jamali and Siddiqui to Pakistan when he was held from Madhubani on November 25.

Mohd Irshad Khan, 52: From Samastipur, Bihar, his daughter was married to Yasin. It's in his house in Okhla, Delhi, that Yasin is believed to have been staying for at least six months. Khan was arrested from Chennai on November 27.

Abdur Rehman, 19: From Darbhanga, he was arrested along with Irshad Khan in Chennai. Yasin is believed to have been with them till hours before the raid.

Security agencies are looking for four others from Madhubani.

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