Maharashtra's élite anti-terrorism squad has said it has held three men involved in planning and executing the July 13, 2011 serial bombings in Mumbai — one of them a witness, who had cooperated with the Delhi Police and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) in the search for two Pakistani nationals who allegedly planted the explosive devices that claimed 27 lives.
Originally hailing from Darbhanga in Bihar, Naquee Ahmed Sheikh and Nadeem Akhtar Ashfq Sheikh stole the scooters used in planting the bombs in crowded Mumbai streets and ferried the explosives and detonators used in the attacks from New Delhi, Additional Director-General of Police Rakesh Maria told journalists in Mumbai on Monday.
However, Mr. Maria said three critical perpetrators — two he identified only as suspect A and B, as well as Indian Mujahideen commander Muhammad Ahmad Zarar Siddibapa — remained fugitive. The police had also traced the course of Rs.10 lakh used in the attack, he said, including at least Rs.1.5 lakh paid by Siddibapa to Naquee Sheikh.
Siddibapa was in Mumbai in July last at the time of 13/7 bombings — making it less than clear why he asked Sheikh to transport explosives to the city on his behalf, Mr. Maria claimed.
Haroon Rashid Naik, who the anti-terrorism squad says is involved in the bombing, was arrested in August, 2011 on charges relating to money-laundering, but has never before been accused of having a role in the 13/7 attacks, in which three bombs went off within minutes of one another in the Zaveri Bazar jewellery market, the Opera House business district, and the bustling neighbourhood of Dadar.
Meanwhile, Naquee Sheikh's family met senior Delhi Police officials to lodge a formal protest against his treatment. Last week, The Hindu revealed that Naquee Sheikh had cooperated with the IB and the Delhi Police after his detention on December 9.
Police sources told The Hindu that Naquee Sheikh had admitted to having helped suspects A and B — whom he knew by the aliases ‘Waqas' and ‘Tabrez' — rent a home in Mumbai. The two men, he said, were introduced to him by an old friend, Gayur Ahmad Jamali. Jamali, in turn, had known Siddibapa since 2008.
Naquee Sheikh also told the police that he accompanied the two terrorists to a gym and helped them find work at a construction site. He also identified ‘Waqas' from closed-circuit camera footage taken outside a store at Jhaveri Bazaar.
His questioning ended by January 7 — when the Delhi Police travelled with him to Mumbai, in a last-ditch attempt to apprehend ‘Waqas' and ‘Tabrez.' There, under circumstances which are yet to be fully explained, he was detained by the Mumbai Police.
“The Delhi Police stand on this [is] clear,” a senior official told The Hindu, “if we are asked to testify in a future bail application by Naquee Sheikh, we will put on record that he cooperated with us.”
Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs said they were “baffled” by the decision to arrest Naquee Sheikh, but declined on-record comment.