The arrested were planning blasts in Delhi and at a temple in Bihar, says Delhi Police chief
The Delhi Police on Thursday claimed to have cracked the August 1 serial blasts in Pune by arresting three suspected militants of the Indian Mujahideen (IM). The police said they were planning to carry out a similar operation in the Capital during the coming festival season and another at a famous temple in Bihar. While raw materials for configuring improvised explosive devices (IED) were purportedly seized from them, the police are now on the lookout for some more members of the module.
At a press conference, Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar said the Special Cell had smashed the IM module behind the Pune blasts, which were masterminded by alleged outfit founder-brothers Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal to avenge the killing of suspected IM member Qateel Siddique in Pune’s Yerwada Jail by two other jail inmates on June 8.
The police chief said the vital lead came from Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, one of the alleged handlers of the 26/11 Mumbai attack terrorists deported from Saudi Arabia in June.
“Jundal disclosed that plans were afoot to target major Indian cities. He was in touch with the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant Fayyaz Qagzi from Beed in Maharashtra who is now in a west Asian country. Mr. Qagzi was coordinating with Riyaz and Iqbal of Indian Mujahideen, now in Pakistan, to carry out the strikes,” said Mr. Kumar.
The police claim they identified the IM module hideout at Pul Prahladpur in South Delhi from where Asad Khan (33), a resident of Aurangabad, and Imran Khan (31), a resident of Nanded in Maharashtra, were arrested on September 26.
The accused disclosed that they had come here at the instance of Mr. Qagzi and the Bhatkal brothers, with the objective of triggering blasts at crowded places. The suspects were first received at the Nehru Place in South Delhi by a conduit codenamed Raju Bhai, who had taken the Pul Prahladpur house on rent and made arrangements for their “long stay”.
“The accused disclosed that they, along with other members, were involved in the Pune blasts. One of them, identified as Sayed Feroz (38) from Pune, was then arrested at the Nizamuddin railway station on October 1,” said Mr. Kumar.
The trio purportedly disclosed that the module first planned to plant a bomb at the Yerwada Jail or the city court premises or target relatives of the two jail inmates who had allegedly killed Mr. Siddique. Heavy police presence at the jail and court premises, coupled with their failure to identify the inmates’ relatives, led them to weigh the possibility of carrying out a strike in Mumbai or Pune.
As instructed, the suspects met at Asad’s tour and travel office in Aurangabad in July, following which Mr. Feroz took a flat on rent at Kasarwadi in Pune. Two other suspects joined them later.
“They brought explosives and electronic items for assembling IEDs from an electrical/electronic market in Budhwarpeth, Pune. They also bought digital watches and circuit boards, while ball bearings were brought by Imran from Nanded. The accused conducted reconnaissance of certain places in Mumbai, but the Bhatkal brothers later fixed it for Pun.”
The module finally identified the city’s busy Junglee Maharaj Road, and on the fateful day, the accused bought three bicycles, parked them at a stand close to a bus-stand and in the evening, planted half-a-dozen IEDs along the road before vanishing from the scene.
Mr. Feroz owns a garment shop named “Options” in the busy Mominpura area of Pune, where he also stays with his family. While his house was found locked, neighbours refused to speak but confirmed that he stayed with his wife and four children.
His business partner Mohsin said Mr. Feroz was in the city till September-end. “We met him about 10-12 days ago. After that he has not been in town,” he said. Mohsin said he had known Mr. Feroz for the last three years, and had not suspected anything about him till date. “It is a shock for all of us to see that he has been arrested. Maybe, his wife and kids have left the house as journalists started coming in,” he said adding that Mr. Feroz usually travelled to source the material from other cities but this time he did not know why he went out of Pune.
(With inputs from Amruta Byatnal from Pune)