Maharashtra anti-terrorism police questioning Mangalore resident Abdul Samad Bawa

The Maharashtra anti-terrorism police are questioning a Karnataka resident they say may have been involved in February's bombing of a café in Pune, and in jihadist networks which have executed a series of urban bombings across India bombings since 2005.

Mangalore resident Abdul Samad Bawa was held by the Maharashtra police soon after his return from the United Arab Emirates, and flown to Mumbai for questioning. Government sources said India's intelligence services had worked closely with their counterparts in the UAE to secure Mr. Samad's return to India.

Police have been seeking Samad's brother, Mohammad Zarar Siddi Bawa, on suspicion that he may have played a central role in executing the German Bakery bombing. Investigation sources say informants identified an individual filmed by the café's closed-circuit camera as Bawa. Bawa, also known as ‘Yasin Bhatkal', has been named as fugitive by authorities involved in the prosecution of members of a jihadist network called the Indian Mujahideen (IM), which carried out multiple urban bombings nationwide.

Airports alerted

Samad, intelligence sources said, had flown to Dubai on March 25. Following his identification by the Maharashtra police as an individual of interest in the Pune investigation, airports nationwide were alerted to detain him on arrival.

Investigators say they now hope to establish whether Samad was one of at least three individuals who were recorded by a separate closed-circuit camera system, located in a hotel adjoining the café, who met on the street minutes before the bombings.

Police sources said they would also examine allegations that Samad might have been linked to a cache of weapons recovered in Mumbai's suburbs last year. However, they denied media reports that Samad was also being questioned for his connections to the November, 2008 Lashkar-e-Taiba assault on Mumbai.

No past criminal investigation has thrown up any suggestion that Samad was involved in the Indian Mujahideen's networks or organised crime activity, Maharashtra police sources said.

Little is known about Samad's background, but Karnataka police sources say he had been studying in Bangalore until 2008, when several key Indian jihadists were held in a series of nationwide raids. He was not linked by prosecutors to any of the Indian Mujahideen's operations.

But investigators say they hope Samad's questioning will offer insights into the Indian Mujahideen's networks in the UAE and Pakistan. Bawa, along with key Indian Mujahideen commanders, Riyaz Ismail Shahbandri and his brother Iqbal Shahbandri, are thought by Indian intelligence to have conducted extensive recruitment and fund-raising operations among the Indian diaspora in the UAE.