Maharashtra ATS today claimed to have made a major breakthrough in the July 13 triple blasts in the city last year that claimed 27 lives, with the arrest of two of the accused hailing from Bihar.
Naqi Ahmed Wasi Ahmed Sheikh (22) and Nadeem Akhtar Ashfaq Sheikh (23) were arrested on January 12 but the mastermind of the crime Yasin Bhatkal, a top Indian Mujahideen operative, and the planters of the IEDs used in the blasts are still evading arrest, Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Rakesh Maria told reporters.
Officials collect evidence from the Zaveri Bazar blast site on July 13
Maria said while Naqi came to Mumbai in September 2010, Nadeem, his co-villager, from Bihar's Darbhanga district, was living in Antop Hill area of the city.
Naqi, according to Maria, came in touch with Ahmed Zarar Siddibappa alias Yasin Bhatkal alias Imran in 2008.
Click here to view the slideshow: Mayhem in Mumbai
He said Nadeem was called to Delhi by Bhatkal and handed over a cloth packet containing the explosive and detonators used in the blast that was handed over to Naqi.
Naqi, he said, was given Rs 1.5 lakh by Bhatkal as commission for the crime in which at least Rs 10 lakh, received through hawala channels, was used.
He said Naqi and Nadeem had stolen two Activa scooters that were used for carrying out the explosions.
Two motorcycles also stolen by them and kept for future use have also been recovered from Bihar.
Rubbishing media reports that Naqi was innocent and that he was being tortured in police custody, Maria said he was aware of Bhatkal antecedents.
Naqi not only assisted Bhatkal in scouting for an apartment in Habib Building in Byculla but also paid the money for accommodation, the ATS chief said.
Maria said while Bhatkal and two others, who had planted the explosives and whose names he refused to divulge lest it would hamper investigations, were eluding the police dragnet, another accused in the case--Haroon Rashid Naik--had already been arrested by ATS in a counterfeit currency case.
Naik, he said, had been arrested in August last year and ATS would today seek a transfer warrant for him from the court.
"We need the custody of Naik from Mumbra for investigation of economic trail and conspiracy in the case," he said.
Maria trashed media reports that Bhatkal was in the city for several months after the blasts and that he was to visit the landlady of the Byculla apartment when he got the whiff of impending action by Mumbai police due to lack of coordination between Delhi police's special cell and Maharashtra ATS and escaped.
"Bhatkal was in the city in June and for some time in July. He left on July 13 and did not come back," he said.
The ATS chief said several articles including computer and clothes of the inmates of the Byculla room have been seized for forensic examination.
"We have asked for a forensic analysis of the room as we believe that the IEDs used for the blasts were assembled in the room," he said. Maria said 40 officers and over 100 men of the ATS had visited 18 states as part of the ongoing investigation and examined 12,373 witnesses.
The ATS chief also junked reports about any tiff or lack of coordination with Delhi police in carrying out the probe, saying investigators from Mumbai were getting all cooperation from their Delhi counterparts.
"Competition is good and it should be there. Which police will not want to crack the case, but there is no rivalry," he said.
Maria said he would have liked to go to the media only after wrapping up the investigation but decided to hold the press conference owing to "speculative reporting and rumour mongering".
Meanwhile, the police produced Naqi and Nadeem before a Mumbai court which granted their custody to ATS till February 2 (rpt February 2).
Terror had struck Mumbai on July 13, 2011 when three near simultaneous blasts ripped through crowded areas in the city in a grim reminder of the deadly 2008 Mumbai attack. All the explosions were triggered by Improvised Explosive Devices(IED).
The first explosion rocked Zaveri Bazar, a bustling jewellery market, at 6.50 pm and a minute later another blast shook the busy business area Opera House.
A third blast ripped through crowded Dadar area in Central Mumbai at 7.04 pm.
The blasts at Opera House and Zaveri Bazaar were of a higher intensity than the one at Dadar.
Though no group claimed responsibility for the blasts, Mumbai police all along suspected the hand of home-grown terror outfit Indian Mujahideen.