Bhatkal arrest brings city cops much festive relief

Aug 30, 2013, 07:28 IST | Bhupen Patel and Vinay Dalvi

Yasin Bhatkal was living a stone's throw from Lalbaugcha Raja in 2011 and has been on the radar of cops during the Ganesh festival ever since

With the arrest of Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed Zarar Siddhibappa better known as Yasin Bhatkal, one of India’s most wanted terrorists and co-founder of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), on Wednesday night, the Mumbai police can heave a huge sigh of relief. He was arrested on the Indo-Nepal border along with Asadullah Akhtar, another suspected IM terrorist.

Illustration/Amit Bandre

Bhatkal, wanted for a string of bombings in India, was arrested in a top-secret operation conducted by the NIA and other government agencies along with the help of the Bihar police. Mumbai officials are pleased, as they believe that with Bhatkal’s arrest, this Ganesh Chaturthi would be a terror free festival. In the past, every year around this time of the year when festivals are around the corner, officials would be on high alert as they suspected Bhatkal would wreak havoc in the city. 

Bhatkal was last seen in the city in July 2011 along with his three aides --Tahaseen Akhtar Wasim Aktar Shaikh, Asadulla Akhtar, Javed Akhtar and Waqas alias Ahmed when they triggered three explosions at Zaveri Bazaar, Opera House and Dadar, killing 27 and injuring another 130.

Seen them? Following the 13/7 blasts, the state ATS had put up posters announcing a reward of Rs 10 lakh to anyone who can provide information on Bhatkal. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Following the blasts, Bhatkal had taken shelter at Habib Mansion in Byculla, a stone’s throw away from the city’s famous Lalbaugcha Raja Mandal, which made cops suspect that the pandal was the next target of the Indian Mujahideen.

“With Ganesh Chaturthi just a week away, we were planning on ordering fresh posters of Yasin and his aides, as the old posters were spoiled. His arrest is definitely good news and big relief the Mumbai police,” said an ATS officer.

“It is a tremendous and big achievement. Kudos to the central agency. He is wanted by six states. We will send a team to get his custody,” said ATS chief Rakesh Maria at ATS headquarters, Byculla.

This ‘shahrukh’ was wanted in 6 states
SINCE 2008, the man has been on the run, wanted by the counter-terrorism units of six different states. But Yasin Bhatkal, one of India’s most wanted men, was able to evade arrests until Wednesday night when he was finally nabbed at the Indo-Nepal border. Yasin is known as several different names, which made his capture that much more difficult.

In Hyderabad and Delhi, Yasin was known as Shahrukh; for hawala operators, he was Shivanandhan. In Jaipur and Ahmedabad, he was known as Wasimbhai. It was only after the German Bakery blasts in Pune in 2010 that he gained prominence as Yasin Bhatkal. Known for his meticulous planning and talent for disguise, his arrest is the second biggest terror catch in a fortnight following the arrest of Abdul Kareem Tunda, a key operative of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

His ability repeatedly to evade capture prompted some in the media to nickname him the ghost bomber. The 30-year-old hails from the coastal town of Bhatkal in Karnataka. He was educated at the elite Anjuman Hami-e-Muslimeen school and was proficient in four languages -- English, Urdu, Hindi and Nekati, a local language spoken in the village. He also received a degree in Unani medicine and practised it. In 2005, Yasin met Riyaz and his brother Iqbal Bhatkal at Maqdoom colony in Bhatkal village, where he was allegedly indoctrinated into jihad. His father soon shifted him to Dubai, after the latter caught wind of his hard-line activities to run the family business there. However, Yasin could not manage it there and returned in a year's time, with a clearer agenda of jihad. 

He then mastered the art of making explosives and his signature -- planting the explosives in pressure cookers and tiffin boxes. He played a vital role in planning and executing the 13/7 train blasts in Mumbai in 2011, the Delhi blasts in 2010, the Chinnaswamy stadium blasts in Bangalore in 2010, the German Bakery blast in Pune in 2010 and the Delhi high court blast in 2011.  

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