New Delhi/Lucknow: An Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative who was allegedly involved in the 2010 Jama Masjid bomb blast in New Delhi has been arrested, police said Saturday.
Ajaz Sheikh, 27, a resident of Pune in Maharashtra, was arrested Friday night from the Saharanpur railway station in western Uttar Pradesh during a joint operation by the Delhi Police and the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).
He was nabbed as soon as he deboarded a train coming from Moradabad.
A key Indian Mujahideen operative Sheikh -- who was the "silent" India-based techie, logistics supporter and hawala router for the IM operatives in India -- was on the radar of the security agencies for more than three months.
He is suspected to have played an important role in "facilitating" the blast, an official told IANS, adding Sheikh was "in the thick of IM operations" in the country.
Sheikh was sent to 10 days' police custody by a Delhi court Saturday. A sessions judge allowed Delhi Police to quiz him till Sep 16.
Before fleeing to Nepal in 2013 after the arrest of IM's co-founder Yasin Bhatkal, he was residing in house number 306 situated on the second floor of Galaxy Apartment in Ghorpade Peth, Pune.
His arrest led the police to unravel the mystery of two IM e-mails sent after the Sep 19, 2010 Delhi's Jama Masjid shooting followed by a blast and the same year's Dec 7 serial blasts at Sheetla Ghat in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh).
"In spite of busting several IM modules and the recent arrests of Yasin Bhatkal, Tehsin Akhtar, Assadullah Akhtar, Waqas and other top terrorists, the identity of the person who had sent the e-mails after the Jama Masjid and Sheetla Ghat terror strikes was a mystery," said Special Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) S.N. Srivastava.
Sheikh, investigators said, was technically super-smart and had practically left no trace of his identity while espousing the nefarious claims of IM before the national media.
Using expert technological cover, Sheikh had sent e-mails to various Indian media houses after the Jama Masjid strike claiming the act to be of IM and as revenge for the Sep 19, 2008 Batla House encounter in Jamia Nagar, Delhi in which two suspected IM terrorists -- Atif Amin and Mohamed Sajid -- were killed, two others -- Mohd Saif and Zeeshan -- arrested and one accused Ariz Khan escaped.
"The draft of the mail, prepared by Riyaz Bhatkal and his associates in Pakistan, was received by Sheikh in advance of the strikes. The successful experiment was repeated in the Sheetla Ghat strikes," said the official.
"He used an open WiFi network of Mumbai to sent the mail after the Sheetla Ghat strike. He then became a favourite of the IM hierarchy after Mansoor Ali Peerbhoy (another IM tech-savvy IM operative currently in jail) who used to sent such mails on behalf of IM handlers," said the official.
He also used to prepare fake identity cards required by IM operatives, procure SIM cards, collect Western Union Money Transfers, obtain rented rooms and enrol professional educational institutions as a cover.
Sheikh was in direct touch with IM's top operatives Riyaz Bhatkal and Mohsin Chowdhary. He joined IM with the help of his brother-in-law Chowdhary.
His name has not been revealed in any case being investigated against the IM members.
"After the Batla House encounter, several IM operatives were arrested from various states. Chaudhary along with Riyaz and Iqbal (the Bhatkal brothers) and some IM members of the Azamgarh module reached Pakistan and they told Ajaz to stay here and work here as an undercover and unexposed contact," said Srivastava.
The official said Sheikh was told to master computers and turn tech-savvy while leading a normal life. He had done a diploma course in hardware, networking and Linux operation and simultaneously started working in a BPO firm in Pune to maintain his cover of a normal lifestyle.
Sheikh was first tasked to assist Yasin in the execution of the February 2010 German Bakery bombings.
For the strike, Sheikh arranged a mobile phone, a SIM card and rented accommodation for Yasin. He also recceed several places along with Yasin and was instrumental in the finalisation of the German Bakery site.