Two held for German Bakery blast

Written by Political Bureau | Mumbai, Pune | Updated: Sep 9 2010, 06:04am hrs
Seven months after the bomb blast at Punes German Bakery, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Wednesday claimed that it had achieved a breakthrough in the probe and arrested 29-year-old Mirza Himayat Baig for the attack which killed 17 people.

A second man allegedly belonging to the same group, 27-year-old Sheikh Lalbaba Mohammed Hussain Farid alias Bilal, was also arrested for heading a sleeper cell of terrorists in Nashik and scouting targets in the state for terror attacks.

In Mumbai, ATS chief Rakesh Maria said that Baig, who was arrested from Pune, was allegedly the bomb planter and was also involved in the conspiracy and the making of the bomb along with Mohammed Ahmed Zarar Sidibappa and Pune-based Mohsin Chaudhary.

ACP Vinod Satav of ATS produced Baig before a court in Pune this afternoon. Public prosecutor A V Ausekar sought his custody for 14 days. Judicial Magistrate (first class) Swaroop Bose remanded him to ATS custody until September 20.

Baig had been identified as the Lashkar-e-Toiba chief of Maharashtra, Maria said, adding that he was responsible for networking and bringing together the men involved in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case and members of Indian Mujahideen. Sidibappa and Chaudhary, he said, have been named as wanted in the case.

The German Bakery blast on February 13 was the first terror attack in the country after the 26/11 Mumbai attack fourteen months earlier. It had foxed investigators as the attackers had apparently covered their tracks and not repeated mistakes that led to arrests in previous blasts. Some vital clues from the spot were also lost as the bakery had been hosed down by fire brigade personnel in the aftermath of the explosion, investigators had said.

Although the ATS suspected remnants of the IM to be behind the attack, it was feared that the bombers had fled the country. The ATS had in May arrested 22-year-old Abdul Samad Mohammed Jarar, as he returned to Mangalore from Dubai on an Air India Express flight. While the ATS accused him of being linked to a 2009 arms haul case in Mumbai, the Union home ministry had said that he was a prime suspect in the Pune blast, leading to denials from the state government.

Officials said that the probe had taken them to Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Daman and Diu, Tamil Nadu and New Delhi, and the breakthrough came due to the help of human intelligence. This led to Baig being picked up from the Mahatma Gandhi Bus Stand in Pune on Tuesday afternoon.

Baig, also alleged to be a member of the Kerala-based Popular Front of India, was wanted in connection with a 2008 Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act case lodged at Punes Lashkar police station and his name also allegedly figured prominently in the 2006 Aurangabad Arms Haul case, Maria said.

Baig is believed to have first met Mohammed Akbar Ismail Chaudhary, an IM operative and younger brother of Mohsin, at a library in Pune. It was through him that Baig was introduced to Mohsin, then to Sidibappa and then to Iqbal (Bhatkal) and Riyaz (Bhatkal), Maria added.

Baig, on the run since the Aurangabad arms haul, is said to have been trained by the Bhatkal brothers at Jali beach in Bhatkal, Karnataka. He is also believed to have stayed with Iqbal Bhatkal during the training. We believe that he has also been to Colombo for a brief period for training under the LeT, Maria said.

Sidibappa, Chaudhary and Baig closely co-ordinated with Riyaz Bhatkal and allegedly held their first conspiracy meeting in connection with the Pune blast in the last week of January 2010 in Udgir in Latur district.

On January 31, they allegedly visited Pune and surveyed targets and finalized the soft target. The second crucial meeting took place on February 3 wherein the final decision was taken, Maria said.

Mohsin then brought the explosives and handed it to Sidibappa and Baig. Baig, who has an internet cafe named Global Internet cafe in Udgir, gave space for assembling the explosives. Sidibappa and Baig then assembled the explosives in Udgir and left for Pune on the night of February 12. They reached Pune in the afternoon on February 13.

At the bakery, while Baig stood outside, Yasin, allegedly the official bomb maker of IM went inside and planted the bomb. He is also the person captured by the bakerys CCTV camera, Maria said. They then went to the Pune bus station where they heard about the blast. Baig then left for Udgir while Sidibappa left for wherever he had to go.

Maria said Bilal is not directly connected to the German Bakery blast. But, they all seem to be from the same network of people.