After a decade of searches and mis-steps, Indian intelligence agencies finally nabbed Yasin Bhatkal, one of India's most wanted for several terror attacks and founder of the Indian Mujahideen (IM).
Bhatkal, whose real name is Mohammed Ahmed Sidibapa is 30 years old and hails from the coastal town of Bhatkal in Karnataka.
Bhatkal was picked up by security agencies along with another IM leader Asadullah Akhtar, official sources said. Yasin is being brought to Delhi.
According to TV reports, another terrorist named Waqas has also been arrested. He is one of the alleged bombers in the 2011 Mumbai serial blasts.
Top intelligence officials say that Operation Bhatkal was started two years ago. He reportedly ran out of resources after the failed Gaya attack.
According to sources, Bhatkal will be handed over to the NIA, which will then use the existing FIR to prosecute him.
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that Bhatkal, accused in Hyderabad and Mumbai blasts, was arrested from "Bihar-Nepal border" yesterday night and he is the custody of the Bihar Police.
He is being interrogated by the Bihar Police, the Minister said.
"Yasin has been traced and he is under the custody of the Bihar Police. The interrogation is going on. Till now, this is the only information," Shinde told reporters outside Parliament House.
Asked as to which agency picked him up, the Minister said, "intelligence agencies" but refused to disclose their names.
He was the mastermind behind the IM along with his cousins Riyaz and Iqbal. Like his predecessors, Yasin was also hiding in the UAE when Indian intelligence agencies managed to track him down.
It is believed that the other alleged terrorist and bomb maker Abdul Karim Tunda helped locate Bhatkal since both of them had been in touch.
Using a combination of wire taps and human intelligence, Bhatkal was tracked and deported to Nepal before being packed off to the Indian border to be arrested formally.
Like the other alleged terrorists, Bhatkal was also travelling under an assumed name using a Pakistani passport, sources told dna.
Bhatkal had set up the Azamgarh and Darbhanga modules of the IM. He provided training, funding and material for a series of terror attacks from Gujarat to Maharashtra and probably even Delhi, said sources.
"We will know after the interrogation starts," a senior intelligence official told dna.
Ironically, Bhatkal was arrested in 2008 by the Kolkata police in a fake currency case. Unfortunately, due to lack of coordination, the Kolkata Police had no clue who he was.
Bhatkal assumed a false identity and managed to escape before a Delhi Police team could arrive to confirm who he was. Since then he was believed to have slipped into Bangladesh and then to Karachi in Pakistan.
It is believed that he had personally provided training to other members of the IM in the coastal town of Bhatkal and the Cardamom Hills in Kerala.
Several other alleged IM terrorists like Abdul Sathar received training under Bhatkal. Sathar too recently returned to India from the UAE.
The NIA believes that in 2010, Bhatkal planted the bomb that exploded at the German Bakery in Pune, killing 17 people.
He was also spotted on CCTV cameras after the German Bakery blast in Pune. He was seen walking away after planting a backpack full of explosives.
Bhatkal, 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.
In February this year, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh each to anyone giving information on Yasin and the three aides.
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.
In December 2011, Delhi police had also announced a reward of Rs 15 lakh for any information leading to the arrest of Yasin in several terror cases, including three in Delhi.
Bhatkal in police custody, to be produced in court for remand
The Bihar police is interrogating the arrested terrorist Yasin Bhatkal, co-founder of Indian Mujahideen, and his associate and will produce them in a court for transit remand.
Superintendent of Police of Motihari Vinay Kumar told PTI that the two were in the custody of the Bihar police at Motihari and would be produced in a court here for transit remand.
Yasin Bhatkal, Indian Mujahideen co-founder and one of India's most wanted terrorists, was arrested from the Indo-Nepal border in north Bihar last night.
Yasin was trailed for 6 months
Bhatkal was being followed by central security agencies for the last six months before he was apprehended in Nepal.
Government sources said the security agencies had got a tip off about Yasin's movement about six months ago and since then he had been continuously trailed by them.
Yasin was apprehended along with one of his accomplices yesterday in Nepal and subsequently brought to the Indo-Nepal border before being handed over to the Bihar Police.
The IM co-founder was apprehended by security agencies with the help of local authorities in Nepal.
Sources said Yasin was planning to go to Bangladesh as part of his terror activities and to meet some contacts there.
Karnataka Police to seek Yasin's custody
Karnataka police will seek the custody of Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal, who was arrested from the Indo-Nepal border in north Bihar, for his alleged role in terror attacks in Bangalore, a top police official said today.
"We will seek Yasin's custody for interrogating him on his role in several terror attacks in Bangalore. However, it will take time for us to get him here," Karnataka DGP Lalrokhuma Pachau told PTI here.
Yasin, who hails from Bhatkal in Karnataka, is wanted in connection with a string of terror attacks in Ahmedabad, Surat, Bangalore, Pune, Delhi and Hyderabad. His arrest last night, more than five years after he was on the run, is considered a prize catch.
Pachau said Karnataka Police had been on the lookout for the Indian Mujaheedin leader and were sharing information with security agencies including NIA and Intelligence.
"The arrest of Yasin is a good breakthrough for the nation and the police as well," he said.
Pachau also said Karnataka Police would trace the source of income for carrying out terrorist activities which will help them dismantle terror networks in the state.
Arrested Indian Mujahideen co-founder Yasin Bhatkal is suspected to be involved in a number of lethal bombings and terror strikes of which the most prominent are:
* Nov 23, 2007: Six consecutive blasts in Uttar Pradesh. More than 15 people killed.
* May 13, 2008: A series of nine synchronised bombs explode in Jaipur within a span of 15 minutes. Sixty people killed and over 200 injured.
* July 25: A series of nine bombs explode in Bangalore. Two people killed and 20 injured.
* July 26: Ahmedabad rocked by 21 bomb blasts within a span of 70 minutes. Fiftysix people killed and over 200 injured.
* Sep 13: A series of five bomb blasts rock Delhi, killing 30 people and injuring over 100.
* Feb 13, 2010: A bomb explodes at the German Bakery in Pune, killing 17 people and injuring over 60.
* Sep 19: Two gunmen on a bike fire at Taiwanese tourists near Delhi's Jama Masjid injuring two people. A few hours later a car parked around 150 metres from the firing spot catches fire due to the impact of a minor blast.
* Dec 7: A bomb blast in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi city kills a minor girl and injures over 30 people.
* July 13, 2011: A series of three coordinated bomb explosions in Mumbai kill 26 people. Over 136 people injured.
* Feb 21, 2013: Two bomb blasts at Dilkushnagar in Hyderabad kill 17 people and injure over 100.
* July 7: A series of 10 bombs explode in and around Mahabodhi Temple complex in Bodh Gaya in Bihar, injuring five people.
The arrest of one of the most wanted terrorists saw people reacting on twitter. Here are some reactions that poured in on the micro-blogging site.
Whoa.. Invisible terrorist of non existing(!!) IM Yasin Bhatkal was arrested.. Kudos to security team..
— Udaya (@udaya_krishna) August 29, 2013
Yasin Bhatkal arrested, Tunda behind bars. Indias first cop HM has more mettle than these false loh purushes. #supermanshinde
— Aditya Menon (@AdityaMenon22) August 29, 2013
— Dhaval Kulkarni (@dhavalkulkarni) August 29, 2013
First Tunda now Yasin Bhatkal. Pak firings at the LOC seem to be helping India in a different way.
— Nagaraj Pingili (@NagPingili) August 29, 2013
Yasin Bhatkal's neighbours in Mumbai say they didn't know he was a terrorist: Sahara Samay
— महाफ्रीद ईरानी (@mahafreed) August 29, 2013
Yasin Bhatkal needs to be probed sternly & find all his links across the nation to avoid more blast & finally he should be hanged in public
— zulfiquar ahmed (@zulfiquar9) August 29, 2013
With Agency Inputs