ATS arrests 2 from Darbhanga, Bihar, for Mumbai triple blasts, a third accused is already in their custody for a fake currency case, Yasin Bhatkal still wanted
Six months after the triple bomb blasts shook Mumbai in July last year, the Maharashtra ATS claims to have cracked the case with the arrest of two persons from Darbhanga district in Bihar. Another one of their associates, who allegedly helped them route the funds for the blasts, is already in the custody of the ATS.
The mastermind in the case, Yasin Bhatkal, is still wanted.
The accused, identified as Naqi Ahmed Wasi Ahmed Sheikh (22) and Nadeem Akhtar Ashfaq Sheikh (23), were arrested on January 12. Their associate, Haroon Rashid Naik, was picked up by the ATS in August last year in a fake currency case. Police will now seek Haroon's custody from the court on fresh charges.
On July 13, 2011, three near simultaneous blasts ripped through the crowded areas of Zaveri Bazaar, Opera House and Kabutarkhana in Dadar, claiming 27 lives and injuring 127 others. Within a week, the ATS was handed over the case.
"Our officers visited 18 states, recorded the statements of 12,373 witnesses and browsed through 180 reels of CCTV footage to reach the accused," said Maharashtra ATS chief Rakesh Maria.
According to the ATS, the blasts were executed by a new module called Darbhanga, headed by Yasin Bhatkal alias Ahmed Zarar Siddibappa alias Imran. Yasin recruited youngsters from Darbhanga and trained them for the blasts.
One of the two arrested by the ATS being produced in Mazgaon court.
Pics/Vijay Bate, Sunil Tiwari
The mastermind of the blasts, Yasin Bhatkal, also the brain behind German Bakery bomb blast in Pune in February 2010, holds the reins of Indian Mujahideen (IM) operations in Maharashtra, and takes his orders from Riyaz Bhatkal and Iqbal Bhatkal, IM co-founders.
Yasin recruits youngsters from northern states and brainwashes them to execute terror attacks. The ATS suspects that Yasin was the one who planted the bomb at the Dadar bus stop, and two of his Pakistani associates planted the explosives at Opera House and Zaveri Baazar.
There were reports that Yasin was in the city even after the 13/11 blasts and he stayed at the Habib Mansion building in Byculla for several months. But Maria trashed these reports. He also denied the rumours that Bhatkal was to visit the landlady of his Byculla apartment but that he escaped after he got a whiff of the impending action by Mumbai police owing to the lack of coordination between the Delhi police's special cell and the Maharashtra ATS. "Bhatkal was in the city in June. He left on July 13, and did not come back," Maria said.
Naqi and Nadeem had stolen four two-wheelers from south Mumbai. Of the four, two Honda Activas were stolen from Khadilkar Road close to Charni Road station, and the others from the parking lot of Harkisandas Hospital in Girgaum. Two of the bikes were used to plant explosives at Zaveri Bazaar and Opera House. The other two were taken to Bihar. "We have recovered the duplicate keys and the helmet of the owner of one of the Activa bikes from Naqi's possession," Maria said.
Naqi, came to Mumbai in September 2010, helped Yasin and two other accused find accommodation at Byculla. He has also been charged for providing SIM cards to them. Maria said that Naqi was given Rs 1.5 lakh by Yasin as commission for the crime in which at least Rs 10 lakh was received through hawala channels.
Nadeem, who comes from Naqi's village in Darbhanga, resided in Antop Hill.
He was Naqi's accomplice in stealing the two-wheelers. The ATS claimed that Nadeem was the one who carried the explosives, given to him by Yasin, to the city from New Delhi. Yasin assembled the explosives at the Habib Mansion apartment, and used them in the 13/11 blasts.
Haroon, who used to be an ace informer for the Mumbai Crime Branch, had already been arrested by the ATS on August 22, 2011 following the recovery of counterfeit currency from him. The ATS suspects that he helped the accused receive money through hawala transactions before being nabbed.