Recent arrest of Yasin Bhatkal, is being termed as the biggest catch by the Intelligence agencies. Yasin Bhatkal, originally known as Muhammad Ahmad Zarar Siddibappa, is known for using aliases. According to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), his major aliases are Ahmed, Shahrukh, Imran and Asif. Starting from a small town in Karnataka, he went on to become the most wanted man of India. NIA had announced Rs 10 lakh as reward for anyone, who give information on Yasin Bhatkal. Known as “ghost bomber”, Yasin always gave slip to the police after every terror attack he perpetrated. In 2009, he was arrested in Kolkata, on charges of small time fake currency supplier. But he managed to dodge police after giving his false identity. Similarly in 2012, he managed to slip away from Hyderabad, after planting bombs in Dilkushnagar area of Hyderabad. Indian Intelligence establishment is patting its back on the successful operation of arresting Yasin Bhatkal. He is known to be the main logistic provider and expert in bomb making. He was a good motivator and had recruited many youths from Bihar, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. He and the Indian Mujahideen are charged with around 40 bomb attacks across India.
Indian Mujahideen came on the radar of the security agencies of India after string of blasts in Jaipur, in which 63 people died. Emails purportedly sent by the group were characterised, with messages condemning so-called “infidels” and calling on people to accept Islam or face death. This was the first instance in which a home grown outfit was responsible for carrying out such an attack. He came in the leading role for the outfit in 2008 Ahmedabad blasts, for which he provided explosives. Since then, home grown outfits have been held responsible for a long list of attacks, but it was only after the attack on the famous German Bakery in Pune in 2010 that India banned the group and the authorities began cracking down on such home-grown terrorist outfits. Some of the major attacks master-minded by Yasin Bhatkal are listed below:
► May 2008: 63 killed, 200 wounded in Jaipur
► July 2008: 49 killed in Ahmedabad
► September 2008: 26 killed in Delhi
► February 2010: 17 killed, 64 injured at Pune’s German Bakery
► September 2010: Two tourists shot near Jama Masjid in Delhi
► July 2011: 27 killed, 131 injured in Mumbai
► February 2013: 17 killed, over 100 injured in Hyderabad
► April 2013: 16 wounded in Bangalore.
Attacking India from all sides was the motto of Yasin and other founding members of Indian Mujahideen. Yasin Bhatkal formed, initially, two modules for the attacks: Shahab-ud-din Brigade and Ghori Brigade. Shahab-ud-din Brigade was formed for strikes in South India and Ghori Brigade for strikes in North India. Through a series of e-mails, Indian Mujahideen leaders have claimed that the outfit has a target of carrying 200 blasts in India. The crackdown on the outfit by the agencies in 2008-09 has forced the module members to go underground and curb their activities. Yasin Bhatkal has been instrumental in setting up the Darbhanga module of the Indian Mujahideen, which was busted in 2011 by the security agencies,. Intelligence agencies confirm that Yaasin visited Darbhanga with another Indian Mujahideen member Qateel Siddiqui to find out new hideouts and to recruit new members for the outfit. Yasin Bhatkal was the ace recruiter and bomb- maker of Indian Mujahideen and his escapes from the security agencies are legion for other terrorist organisation.. He was so confident of his skills that when NIA went to arrest him, he said: “Haan mai wahi hoon, jisse aap dhoondh rahe hai.”
How Yasin Bhatkal was arrested
In a major operation, involving, Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and National Investigation Agency (NIA), India arrested Yasin Bhatkal and one of his associate Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi from a small house in Pokhra, Nepal. It was a concerted effort of all the security agencies of India to get hold of the one of 10 most wanted men of India. After the blast in Hyderabad, all leads pointed to the involvement of Indian Mujahideen in the blasts. This made Intelligence agencies to step up their surveillance on Yasin Bhatkal. This surveillance resulted in tracing of a call from Nepal to a relative of Yasin. This was followed up by the relentless monitoring of calls from Nepal to India by the Intelligence Bureau. A little mistake by Yasin Bhatkal, of sending one lakh rupees to his wife as “eidi” helped Intelligence Bureau to pin- point Bhatkal. The Ministry of External Affairs and RAW worked up the back channels to ensure that Bhatkal is held and brought back to India.
HOW BHATKAL BECAME A TERRORIST
Ahmad Zarar Siddibappa aka Yasin Bhatkal was born in 1983, in a small town of Bhatkal near Mangalore, Karnataka. His family was a well-to-do family with a flourishing business in Dubai. He was sent to Anjuman Hami-e-Mulimeen School of the town. For his higher studies, supposedly,Yasin went to a Karnataka college, where he was a popular student. Increased riots in Bhatkal, and the communal atmosphere of the country in the 90s allegedly infused a sense of injustice in the mind of a young Yasin. The anger of a frustrated mind was given direction by Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). In the course of his religious teachings; he met Riyaz Shahbandri, aka Riyaz Bhatkal and his brother Iqbal Bhatkal. Both the brothers were also members of SIMI. Afraid of his radicalisation, his parents sent him to Dubai in 2004, then to LA Alamos in New Mexico of the United States. He left his home after a tiff with his parents in 2006 and moved close to the Bhatkal brothers. Frustrated with SIMI’s soft ideology, the trio broke away from the organisation to follow more radicalised path of Islam. Information regarding the early days of the formation of Indian Mujahideen is very scarce. Much of the details were provided by Sadiq Israr Sheikh, one of the few founding members of the group in custody, and they create a picture of surreptitious meetings and provide an understanding of how the group began to forge links with other militant groups, including Pakistan-based outfits. Financed by the Bihar’s Amir Reza Khan, the trio went to Pakistan’s Lashkar camps to get trained in Jihadist ideology. It is here that Yasin got trained in explosive making. They were also backed by the Pakistan intelligence agency, ISI. He became the ace recruiter and bomb- maker for Indian Mujahideen. Yasin always remained low profile and maintained absolute secrecy. He lived his life in so much secrecy that even his family didn’t know of his marriage to Zahira Irshad Khan. It is said that to Zahira and her family, he introduced himself as Imran Ahmed from Lucknow.
To escape from the Intelligence agencies, Yasin Bhatkal was extremely cautious in his action. He always remained below the security radar and resorted to minimum uses of mobile phones. He always monitored the changing police tactics and remained one step ahead of the security agencies.
COMMUNALISATION OF YASIN BHATKAL’S ARREST
After the arrest of Yasin Bhatkal by the security agencies on August 29, Samajwadi Party leader Kamaal Farooqi commented: “if he is a terrorist then he should not be spared but if he has been arrested just because he is a Muslim, then caution should be exercised as we don’t want to send a wrong message to an entire community that we are trying to malign the community’s image without a thorough investigation.” This comment was vehemently criticised by different parties. But this comment is being dubbed appeasement of the minority people of the country. Not only the Samajwadi Party -led Uttar Pradesh government, but, the Nitish Kumar -led Bihar government also took lackadaisical approaches on the arrest of Yasin Bhatkal. These approaches are the result of the vote- bank politics played by the political parties. According to the recent Intelligence reports, these two states are way too polarised these days and this type of comment may ignite the communal tensions. Also, this comment should be seen as derogatory for our security apparatus, which put their blood and sweat in arresting these terrorists. Criticised by different parties, Farooqi has apologised for his communal rant, but, he has done what he intended to: to communalise the issue and possible polarisation of votes.
Flip side to the arrest of Bhatkal
While the arrest of Yasin Bhatkal is indeed a biggest catch by the intelligence agencies, it is not guaranteed that it will cripple Indian Mujahideen. Being a recruiter and mastermind of attacks, his arrest is a big blow to the outfit as he can provide details of both domestic and Pakistani operations, sleeper cells and modules working in the country. He can also provide information of his Pakistani handlers and commanders of the terror outfits working against India from the Pakistani land. But it is not clear whether, Bhatkal’s arrest will stop Indian Mujahideen’s attacks on India. The modules and sleeper cells Bhatkal has created may have the potential of producing terrorists, who will take charge of the outfit and carry on the attacks on the Indian soil.
Indeed, Yasin Bhatkal is termed as the biggest catch by the Intelligence agencies in the recent years. He is the biggest recruiter of the outfit and personally took interest in the attacks carried out by the outfit. Political conspiracy theorists are describing the recent arrest of Abdul Karim Tunda and Yasin Bhatkal as Man Mohan Singh doing an Obama. They claim that, the Congress is trying to project itself as strong on terrorism, eyeing the forthcoming elections. Nevertheless, the arrest of Yasin Bhatkal and Abdul Karim Tund will remain the biggest catch by the security agencies.
By Nilabh Krishna