TV9 News: Police Suspect ‘Yasin Bhatkal’ Linked in Pune Blast..?

TV9 News: Police Suspect ‘Yasin Bhatkal’ Linked in Pune Blast..?

NEW DELHI: Investigators may have achieved a significant breakthrough in their investigations into last week’s Pune low-intensity blasts with an eyewitness identifying two of the bombers as prominent members of banned Indian Mujahideen (IM), according to sources familiar with the probe.

There is no confirmation from intelligence agencies, but sources claim that two of the three persons who bought the bicycles used in the blasts were Dr Shahnawaz and Mohammad Sajid alias Sajid Bada, both wanted in connection with the serial blasts executed by IM in the past. Both are residents of Azamgarh in UP, and may have escaped from Delhi’s Batla House just before the September, 2008, encounter.

The claim by sources comes even as the central intelligence agencies had been working on the assumption that the blasts in Pune were the handiwork of a cell of the IM headed by Yasin Bhatkal. The same cell was behind the planting of 22 IEDs in Surat in 2008, none of which exploded. The absence of a competent bomb maker in this module miraculously saved Pune from a massive human tragedy on August 2, they believe.

Sources said the prime eyewitness, a bicycle shop-owner, was shown various sketches prepared, based on the descriptions given by him, of suspects in Pune blasts as well as photographs of some IM members. He identified from sketches and photographs the two IM members—Dr Shahnawaz and Sajid Bada.

Officials say they will verify the identities of the suspects from other sources as well because police sketches are not always accurate and could actually mislead. The bicycle shop-owner, sources said, was shown photographs of several IM members out of which he pointed out the two persons having resemblance with the sketches.

Shahnawaz and Sajid Bada were part of the module led by Mohammad Atif Ameen, which was mostly neutralised in the Batla House encounter on September 19, 2008, but the duo had reportedly managed to slip away from the flat in Jamia Nagar when the policemen reached there. The duo was part of this first module of IM, of which Yasin Bhatkal alias Shahrukh was a member,—and 13 members of the group are still absconding. Apart from Yasin Bhatkal and Atif Ameen, this IM module did not have many IED experts, sources said.

Indications of a breakthrough emerge even as the agencies were already working on the premise that the bombings were in all probability the handiwork of the same IM module which was involved in the failed attempt to bomb Surat in 2008. All the 22 IEDs recovered in Surat had defective mechanisms, which resulted in none of them going off. Similar problems had neutralised the effectiveness of the Pune attack last week.

Explosives for the Surat IEDs as well as for an attack in Bangalore were supplied by E T Zainudeen alias Abdul Sattar, a senior IM leader from Kerala who was arrested in Hyderabad in 2009. Sattar, a resident of Kerala’s Malappuram district, was among the founding leaders of IM and had been absconding since 1998. It is not still clear where the IM module may have obtained explosives for the latest attack.