Praveen Mutalik's name figures in many of 164 statements recorded

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Monday arrested Praveen Mutalik, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast, from Gokak in Belgaum district of Karnataka. “We presented him in the court today and he was remanded to police custody till February 14,” ATS chief Rakesh Maria said at a press conference here on Tuesday.

He is not related to Pramod Muthalik of the Sri Ram Sene.

“He was shown as wanted in the chargesheet submitted by the ATS on January 20, 2009. His real name is Praveen Venkatesh Takalki (32) and he has a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering. We had information that he goes by the alias, Praveen Mutalik. We narrowly missed him 15 days ago,” he said.

Mr. Maria said Praveen was the personal secretary of Lt.Col. Shrikant Purohit and that there was substantial forensic evidence against him. “He is an important member of the Abhinav Bharat, which he joined in 2008. He is an integral part of the criminal conspiracy. He is an important link which was missing in the investigation,” he said.

He said that Praveen attended several conspiracy meetings held in Pachmarhi, Nashik and Pune between August and September 2008.

Asked about the role Praveen played in the conspiracy, Mr. Maria said that it was he who took the keys of Sudhakar Chaturvedi's room at the behest of Lt.Col. Purohit on September 22, 2008. Chaturvedi is a co-accused in the case and has already been arrested.

The Malegaon blast, in which six persons were killed and 121 injured, took place on September 29, 2008.

“Subsequent investigation has shown that the forensic swabs of the RDX from the house matched with the RDX from the blast site. It is clear that the explosives were assembled in that room. Praveen took the keys of the room one week prior to the blast. He stayed there between September 22-29. We need to ascertain from him what happened in the room during that period,” Mr. Maria said.

Praveen's investigation would also give clues about those involved in assembling the explosives.

“We were on his trail for the past three months He ran a distribution agency for telephone SIM cards in Gokak. We picked him up yesterday at 9.10 p.m.,” Mr Maria said.

“His name had figured in many of the164 statements recorded by the ATS in the case,” he said.

Two accused, Ramji Kalsingra and Sandeep Dange, are still absconding. Praveen was the 12th accused to be nabbed by the ATS. Prime accused like Sadhvi Pragya Singh and Lt.Col. Purohit are already behind bars.

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