One of India’s most wanted terrorists Mohammed Ahmed Sidibapa, better known as Yasin Bhatkal, has finally been nabbed. Believed to have participated in over 10 terror bombings across cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad in the last five years, Bhatkal fell to a well-planned joint operation of the Intelligence Bureau and its Nepalese counterpart.
The IB planted its operatives in the same neighbourhood in Nepal where Bhatkal was staying and gathered intelligence on his movements and tracked people he used to meet. It is believed that he was picked up a few days ago and interrogated to gather intelligence about IM sleeper cells before making his arrest public, which was done on Thursday morning. This enabled Indian security agencies to track terrorists in India with whom Bhatkal was in touch.
Thursday’s success was amplified as Indian security agencies also nabbed Asadullah Akhtar, believed to be behind the 2011 triple blasts in Mumbai that killed 27 and injured 130 people. Bhatkal and Akhtar were two of a kind, maintaining absolute secrecy while planning and executing bombing missions personally, ensuring that they were at the location several hours before a bomb would go off.
Unlike in the past, successes that have taken place recently due to international factors the arrests of Abu Jundal and Abdul Karim Tunda the arrests of Bhatkal and Akhtar had the Intelligence Bureau’s stamp all over it. It began a few months ago when Bhatkal was “spotted” in Nepal, after having been forced out of a Gulf country, according to sources familiar with the operation.
Bhatkal, a 30-year-old youth from the coastal town of the same name in Karnataka, had been staying in Nepal for several months before being spotted by an intelligence asset. The asset informed the National Investigation Department, Nepal’s national intelligence agency, which had already received several alerts from the IB earlier. As soon as information from Kathmandu reached New Delhi, the IB’s operations directorate began a surveillance operation with the help of the Nepalese authorities.
A major problem with Bhatkal was that he never used cellphones or the Internet and would keep away from any contact with his handlers in Pakistan. This ensured that the bulk of the surveillance had to be carried out physically before they could ascertain how big his terrorist network in Nepal was. This was critical to the operation to ensure that they nabbed him with all his compatriots, who could be used in future terror attacks in India.
A team of IB officers was placed in Kathmandu and assisted by IB’s Nepalese counterpart, which mapped out Bhatkal’s moves for weeks before moving in, nabbed him. After bringing across the border into India, Bhatkal was handed over to a waiting team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Bihar Police.
Later, he was produced in a local court in Motihari, which granted the police a transit remand so that he could be brought to Delhi in the custody of the NIA.