Himayat Baig, the alleged mastermind of the German Bakery blast, arrested by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Wednesday, received one-to-one training in bomb-making in Colombo in 2008 from an absconding Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative, Rakesh Maria, chief of the Maharashtra ATS told journalists here on Thursday.

Mr. Maria said that Baig earlier received training in Bhatkal as well in 2007. He was trained in the methods of indoctrinating youth and the techniques to deal with police interrogation. His primary job was to recruit and send youth for training to Pakistan. “He even became a member of the Popular Front of India (PFI) for the same purpose. He was in touch with the LeT bosses and had also been to Ashoka Mews in Pune [the media hub of the Indian Mujahideen which was busted by the ATS],” Mr. Maria said.

Amid speculation about the choice of Colombo as a centre for training, Mr. Maria said, the Sri Lankan city was chosen only as a meeting point and there was no other significance to it. Ruling out the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or any other connection, he said, “there seems to be only two reasons for choosing Colombo: the access to the country is easy as there is visa-on-arrival facility.”

Baig was called to Colombo by Fayyaz Qazi, a wanted LeT operative, in March 2008. Accordingly, he travelled from Aurangabad (in Maharashtra) to Hyderabad and then to Chennai. From Chennai he flew to Colombo. He was trained in Colombo for 15 days by Qazi himself and another operative whom Baig didn't know. He was also trained on how to communicate with them.

A catalyst

After he returned from Colombo, he was sent Rs. 2.5 lakh for changing his identity. “That is when Baig went to Udgir and set up an Internet café. He bought six to eight computers, rented a place and started the Global Internet café,” Mr. Maria said. He said that Baig had anyway been getting money regularly. Asked whether Baig had undergone any training previously, Mr. Maria said the Shahbandri brothers had trained him in Bhatkal in 2007. “He was trained in using small arms, small grenades, indoctrination methods, and interrogation techniques of police,” he said. Elaborating on the role played by him, Mr. Maria said, “He is a very smart and intelligent person. He is the catalyst in the entire network. He has indoctrinated a sizeable group of boys.”

Baig had also indoctrinated Akbar Chaudhary, an IM operative arrested by the ATS in 2008.

“Baig has the manpower. He is in touch with the LeT bosses. He sends guys for training in Pakistan. He knows a lot of people. In fact, he is the one who had sent Bilal [who was also arrested by the ATS on Wednesday] for training in Pakistan,” he said.

His idea

He also knew all the IM members and it was his idea to merge the IM and the LeT in the State after the 2008 crackdown on the IM. Mr. Maria said that Baig and Bilal alias Sheikh Lalbaba Mohammed Hussain Farid knew each other from Pune as Bilal also knew Fayyaz Qazi and group. “Baig had more proximity to Fayyaz Qazi because all of them are from the Marathwada region.” Talking about Bilal's family, Mr. Maria said Bilal had gone to visit his sister in Solapur in 2007.