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The Bhatkal Connection

The Bhatkal Connection

Author: Johnson T A
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: February 14, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-bhatkal-connection/423241/

Introduction: In two years, five cities in different parts of the country were rocked by devastating serial bomb blasts. Now, separate investigations have found a common connection - Riyaz Bhatkal and his pan-India network of operatives

Separate investigations over the last two years into Indian Mujahideen-connected Terror attack cases around India have gradually thrown up a mind-boggling network of operatives working under a common leadership and drawing on common resources for making bombs. The loosely knit outfit, comprising radical elements from the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), and other fringe groups from Kashmir to Kerala are believed to have come together under the organisation of Riyaz Bhatkal and Abdul Subhan Qureshi alias Tauqeer, both still most wanted men since the Gujarat riots of 2002. Both have had links with SIMI, even before it was proscribed in 2001.

Riyaz Bhatkal or Mohammed Riyaz Shahbandi, a former member of the Fazal-ur-Rehman Mumbai underworld gang is now considered the most common factor in the series of explosions that rocked the country since 2007. He is said to have connections in Pakistan through his mentor Amir Reza Khan, a former underworld figure. Police records show Bhatkal had been talking of creating training camps by linking up with like-minded forces from all over India as early as 2003. Following a series of arrests of IM-linked people in investigations around the country over the last year, Riyaz Bhatkal along with his brother Iqbal Bhatkal, Tauqeer and key associates like Yasin Bhatkal and Nasir Tadiyandavede from Kerala are considered to be among the many IM men yet to be traced by the police.

May 13, 2008
(Nine blasts, 63 dead)
The link

Bhatkal is the alleged supplier of materials used to assemble the bombs. The logistics were taken care of by Atif Amin, Mohammed Saif, Zeeshan Ahmad, Mohammed Shakeel and Saquib Nissar, all part of the Delhi-based, Azamgarh-linked IM module. They allegedly used SIMI men to carry out the blasts. The IM claimed responsibility through an e-mail.

July 26, 2008
(21 blasts, 56 dead)
The Link

Bhatkal is named in the chargesheet as an absconder. He is alleged to have supplied the raw material for the bombs planted by SIMI-linked Qayamuddin Kapadia, the Delhi IM's Atif Amin and others - again drawing on local SIMI networks. Bhatkal's mentor Amir Reza Khan is also named as a conspirator. The IM claimed responsibility for the attacks.

July 26 and 27, 2008
(28 failed bombs)
The Link

The Mumbai module comprising Sadiq Sheikh - the other alleged co-founder of the IM - and eight others arrested by the Mumbai police in September-October last year are accused of planting the bombs. The microchip timers for these IEDs were sourced by Bhatkal from Abdul Sattar, a Kerala man accused of supplying similar timers for the July 25, 2008, serial bomb blasts in Bangalore. The Mumbai module's Arif Shaikh and three Bhatkal men from Mangalore in Karnataka are accused of assembling the bombs. The Bhatkal brothers were allegedly present when the bombs were made.

July 25, 2008
(Nine blasts, one fatality)
The link

A Kerala-based module is accused of planting the bombs, which contained microchip-based timers prepared by an associate of Bhatkal - Abdul Sattar-who was arrested on Jan 20, 2009. Bhatkal allegedly instructed Sattar to create the timers at a meeting in April 2008 for use in bombs to be planted later at Surat.

August 25, 2007
(Twin blasts at Lumbini
Gardens and Gokul Chat Bhandar killed 42 people)
The link

This case was cracked after the Mumbai police arrested 16 men linked to the Indian Mujahideen in late September and early October 2008 at various places. Among those arrested were Mohammed Akbar Ismail Chaudhri and Anique Shaikh, who revealed they planted the bombs with Bhatkal. The bombs were assembled and transported by Bhatkal from Karnataka. Kerala native Abdul Sattar, who was arrested in Hyderabad on January 20, 2009, in connection with the Bangalore blasts case of July 25, 2008, is accused of harbouring the trio.

September 13, 2008
(Five blasts killed 30 people)
The Link

Atif Amin, Mohammed Saif, Zeeshan Ahmad, Mohammed Shakeel and Saquib Nissar carried out the attacks after sourcing material for the bombs from Bhatkal at Mangalore. Saif carried the explosives and bomb material from Udupi around August 29. Amin and Shakeel were killed in the Batla House encounter with the Delhi Special Cell. Amin's module is also accused of carrying out the UP court blasts of November 23, 2007.

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