NEW DELHI: Ahmad Siddi Bappa alias Yasin Bhatkal alias Shahrukh, who Delhi Police claim is Indian Mujahideen’s head of India operations and third in hierarchy after Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, was lodged in an Indian jail for almost three months, investigations carried out by TOI have revealed. Police did not check his antecedents and let him off as a “petty criminal” – a lapse that has cost several innocent lives lost in IM-engineered blasts in the past two years.
A highly-placed source told TOI that “Shahrukh was arrested by the West Bengal Police in December 2009 in a fake currency notes case, and was lodged in jail till February 2010. “Nobody knew his name and his photograph was not available there. Hence, he was let off on the grounds that he was a petty criminal,” the source said. After leaving jail, Shahrukh is believed to have orchestrated a series of blasts across the country, starting with the strike at Pune’s German Bakery that killed 17 people.
Delhi Police sources say they are now verifying details, including the name used by Shahrukh when he was arrested and the jail he was lodged in. Sources, however, added that he was likely to have been lodged in a Kolkata jail.
Shahrukh’s arrest in 2009 was corroborated by Salman alias Chhotu, who was held by the Uttar Pradesh anti-terrorism squad (ATS) in March 2010 for his alleged role in the Delhi serial blasts of 2008. Salman, during his interrogation, spoke of Shahrukh’s arrest “somewhere in India”, said a source. “Salman claimed that he came to know about Shahrukh’s arrest, but that he did not have the details,” said an officer.
Shahrukh allegedly provided the explosives for the Delhi blasts in 2008 and was setting up nationwide modules to carry out more attacks. His lynchpin role in the outfit’s operations in India was revealed by seven Indian Mujahideen terrorists who were arrested in November.
After his stint in jail, Shahrukh carried out the German Bakery blast in February 2010, Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium blast during IPL in April 2010 and the Jama Masjid attack in September. An expert in improvised explosive devices (IEDs), he is believed to have assembled the bombs for all three attacks in 2010 with hawala funds that came from Pakistan. Investigators say he is recruiting youths for Indian Mujahideen, motivating them on religious grounds and also cash incentives. The hawala money is also routed to modules across the country, they said.
The Delhi Police recently announced a Rs15 lakh award on Shahrukh, after he evaded security agencies by a whisker in Delhi’s Mubarakpur in August. Mubarakpur is a stone’s throw from Meer Vihar, where Shahrukh was running an arms factory.
Investigators say Shahrukh took over IM’s domestic operations ever since Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal escaped to Karachi in 2008, around the time when several IM terrorists were arrested or eliminated. Investigations suggest that he was in touch with IM bosses in Pakistan through emails and calls made from neighbouring Nepal, where he travelled frequently. However, he was not in touch with any of IM’s Azamgarh-based terrorists as he was creating his own sleeper cells.