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Yasin Bhatkal arrested

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August 29, 2013

HT breaks news of yet another wanted terrorist arrested on August 28:

Indian Mujahideen (IM) founder and the country’s most wanted terror suspect Yasin Bhatkal has been arrested from the India-Nepal border. Bhatkal is being taken off on a chopper from Raxaul for New Delhi after production in a court in Motihari.

Bihar DGP will brief the press in Patna at 5pm today

Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde confirmed Bhatkal was arrested late Wednesday night from a place near Raxaul in East Champaran, close to the international border.

The operation to arrest Bhatkal was so secret that even after his arrest only few top Bihar Police officers were informed and they too were not told about where he was being held for questioning, an officer said.

For long, counter-terrorism units of 12 states — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal — failed to capture the man who was named by some as “the ghost who bombs”.

ET has a list of incidents Yasin Bhatkal is wanted for:

Yasin, who co-founded IM in 2008 along with brother Riaz, is also wanted in the German Bakery bomb blast in Pune on February 13, 2010, that left 17 dead.

Yasin, also known as Mohammed Ahmed Siddhibappa, along with three aides Tahaseen Akhtar Wasim Aktar Shaikh (23), Asadulla Akhtar Javed Akhtar (26) and Waqas alias Ahmed (26) were allegedly behind three coordinated bomb explosions at Opera House, Zaveri Zazaar and Dadar West in Mumbai on July 13, 2011, leaving 27 dead and 130 injured.

Except Tahaseen, who planted a bomb in the Dadar blast, the rest three were also involved in the four co-ordinated low-intensity explosions, which struck the busy arterial road in the heart of Pune city on August 1, 2012. Eight accused had been arrested in this connection.

TOI reports:

Yasin Bhatkal, along with Riyaz Bhatkal, is a co-founder of the IM. Both hail from Bhatkal village in Karnataka.

Yasin carried a Rs 10 lakh National Investigation Agency (NIA) reward on his head. Another IM operative, Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, is reported to have been detained along with him.

Within a year or so, three major terrorists have been arrested: Bhatkal, Tunda and Abu Jindal. Has the police woken up? Or do we have help from outside the intelligence system?

Morning, August 30, 2013

The stories of both Yasin Bhatkal and his arrest become more mysterious as news agencies write more. First, there is this description in HT:

Indian Mujahideen lynchpin Yasin Bhatkal, one of the country’s most wanted men, was trapped in a house in Pokhara in Nepal by local cops and whisked away into the waiting arms of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Bihar Police in the early hours of Thursday.

Is it true that Indian and Nepalese police cooperated to catch this terrorist? Would this not be a headline in itself? Or did Yasin Bhatkal cross the border without knowing that he was being observed, and was arrested in India? This is what reports said yesterday.

Firstpost, and other sources today, contradict what all sources said yesterday when it writes:

Investigators said they expect to gain specific information from Bhatkal on the whereabouts of the Shahbandri brothers, Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, co-founders of the Indian Mujahideen. The duo is suspected to be hiding in Karachi. With Yasin believed to be the single-point contact for Pakistan-based handlers of the Indian Mujahideen, his arrest would deal a body blow for the IM module in India. It was Yasin BHatkal who passed on cash and other assistance to IM members in India, said sources.

Yesterday all reports said that Yasin was the brother of Riyaz. Perhaps a small error, but one that points out the media’s inability to check sources. The media seem to be reporting everything that is said to them without any cross checks. This is rumour mongering, not news reporting.

Another example of this complete failure of the media is this sentence in ET:

For Bhatkal’s father Zarar Siddibapa though, his son had left for Dubai in November 2005 in search of a livelihood after he failed to make much headway with his studies, failing to clear the 10th grade.

This directly contradicts a report yesterday in TOI:

Yasin was one of the several cases where well educated youths became radicalised and took to terror activities.

The truth is out there, but it is getting harder to see it with all this media frenzy to report anything whatsoever. A nuanced article like this profile of the Bhatkal community in Firstpost is hard to find:

It’s hard to say precisely why Siddibapa took the course he did: human motivation is far too complex to allow for any one-dimensional explanation. Siddibapa’s family — who might have some insight — deny he is a terrorist. In 2010, they also said Siddibapa had left home after a fight, and his whereabouts were unknown. It’s interesting to note, though, that his brother Abdul Samad went down a very different route. In May, 2010, Samad was rendered to India by the United Arab Emirates—amidst unfounded allegations he was an Indian Mujahideen operatives. Intelligence Bureau interrogators concluded Samad had no contact with Indian Mujahideen.

This piece is longer than the usual quick and breathless reports in the traditional media, but well worth reading in full.

Afternoon, August 30, 2013

BS continues to ask who arrested Yasin Bhatkal:

Indian terrorists Abdul Karim Tunda and Yasin Bhatkal were arrested here and handed over to Indian authorities, leading Nepali daily Kantipur said Friday. Nepal’s officials have denied this.

‘We do not have any knowledge about these arrests,’ Nepal’s home ministry spokesperson Shanker Prasad Koirala told IANS.

Although Nepal and India are yet to revisit their bilateral extradition treaty, both sides have agreed to share intelligence to curb terrorism, extremism and criminal elements.

‘We have a regular mechanism to share intelligence with our Indian counterparts at any given point of time related to various incidents and personnel,’ Nepal Police spokesman Nawa Raj Silwal said.

‘But in these particular cases, we do not have any idea that Nepali side handed over them to people on the Indian side,’ he said.

In the meanwhile the courts are grinding fine, reports NDTV:

Yasin Bhatkal, accused of heading terror group Indian Mujahideen and engineering some of India’s most deadly terror attacks, was produced in a Delhi court today after being flown in from Patna on a special plane.

The defence lawyer said that the man arrested is named Mohammed Ahmed, and has wrongly been identified as one of India’s 12 most-wanted men by intelligence officers.

The judge, however, assigned Bhatkal’s custody for the next 12 days to the National Investigation Agency, ruling that “custody is required to unearth the larger conspiracy to affect the recovery related to the instant case and getting leads to arrest 10 more absconding accused persons.”

Evening, August 30, 2013

TOI reports:

Arrested Indian Mujahideen operative Yasin Bhatkal and his associate have “without any remorse” acknowledged that they carried out many bomb blasts so as to “send a message”, a top district police official who interrogated the terror mastermind, said on Friday.

“Bomb blast karta hu message dene ke liye (I carry out bomb blasts to send a message),” Bhatkal was quoted as saying by Motihari superintendent of police Vinay Kumar, who played a key role in arrest of the two top IM operatives from Raxual on India-Nepal border and who initially questioned the two.

The Motihari SP had interrogated Bhatkal and Asadulla Akhtar alias Haddi at his office along with some NIA officials for more than three hours before producing them in the court of chief judicial magistrate for transit remand on Thursday.

August 31, 2013

This report from TOI is interesting in two ways:

“Bhatkal confessed that he used to target young boys, mostly from poorest of the poor background, in Mithilanchal for recruitment to carry out terror attacks in the country,” said the official who was part of a team that interrogated Bhatkal in Bihar soon after he was arrested.

He said Bhatkal admitted that he and his associates first identified potential boys and recruited them for a specific operation.

Only after they succeeded and their names or identity did not figure anywhere, then only they were taken for the second stage of induction for intensive training.

“Haan, maine bharti kiya hain (Yes, I recruited young boys),” Bhatkal told interrogators of Bihar Police, National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Intelligence Bureau, before he was flown to Delhi.

“Bhatkal said the recruitment process was a big task and a risky game. It was not easy to motivate the youth to join for a cause,” the police official said.

First, it turns out that the Bihar police did interrogate the captured terrorist, contrary to the allegations by the BJP. Second, it turns out that terrorists start giving out detailed stories as soon as they are captured. Is this disinformation? Is this a bit of exaggeration by the “police sources”? Or is it that they feel that no one gives them enough credit for all the terror that they have unleashed?

Another example of this strange loquaciousness is reported by LiveMint:

A Pakistan army Lieutenant Colonel, serving in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was the handler of Yasin Bhatkal and used to give instructions to the arrested Indian Mujahideen co-founder for terror acts in India.

During interrogation, Bhatkal confessed the Pakistan army officer was in regular touch with him over phone and emails, gave him instructions and took updates on works done.

The officer also sent money to Yasin through hawala channels and encouraged him to recruit more Indian youth in Indian Mujahideen through radicalization, officials said.

Bhatkal told the interrogators that he is not the head of IM in India and only follows instructions from both his Pakistani handler as well his boss.

There is yet another example from NDTV:

Alleged co-founder of Indian Mujahideen, Yasin Bhatkal, has reportedly accepted his involvement in various terror attacks in the country, sources in the National Investigating Agency or NIA said today.

Sources in the NIA, which has a 12-day custody of one of India’s most wanted men, also said Bhatkal has given leads about four such blasts – Ahmedabad (2008), German Bakery in Pune (2010), Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium (2010) and Mumbai’s Zaveri Bazar (2011).

September 2, 2013

ET reports:

“Bhatkal is not giving any clues on the whereabouts of [two key lieutenants — Tahsin Akhtar and Ariz Khan, alias Wakas] …he has however indicated that top IM men like Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, Amir Reza Khan, Mohd Sajid and Dr Shanawaz Alam are not present in India and could be in Pakistan or UAE,” the investigating official said. “The information given by Bhatkal on ISI and LeT backing IM is serious and the first such confirmation by a top IM leader.

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