NIA gets 12-day custody of Bhatkal, Ashraf

It's not him, claims terror suspect's lawyer

NIA gets 12-day custody of Bhatkal, Ashraf

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday got 12-day custody of Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Yasin Bhatkal who was arrested on Thursday from the India-Nepal border.

His lawyer, however, claimed that the person arrested is not the most-wanted terrorist, prompting the top security agency to mull over a DNA test to ascertain Bhatkal’s identity.

In the court, Bhatkal’s lawyer said the arrested person is Mohammed Ahmed and not Yasin Bhatkal, who the security agencies have been looking for. The court, however, refused to buy the argument and remanded him in NIA custody for 12 days along with his associate Asadullah Ashraf.

Investigators said they could conduct a DNA test to establish his identity by matching his DNA with the samples of his family. However, they said they were not in a hurry.

Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami said on Thursday that Bhatkal himself confirmed during interrogation that he was the IM operative whom the agencies were looking for.

Bhatkal and his associate Akhtar were flown to Delhi from Patna by a special plane on Friday afternoon. The special plane took off from the Jai Prakash Narayan International Airport at 12:38 pm. The duo was brought to Delhi with tight security.

The proceedings in the court of District Judge I S Mehta were held in camera where lawyer M S Khan, appearing for both the accused, argued that there was no material evidence against them. He also said that one of the accused was Mohammed Ahmed and not Bhatkal. In its remand plea, the NIA said Mohammed Ahmed Siddibappa and Yasin Bhatkal were the same person against whom Non-Bailable Warrant was issued.

The court also allowed the NIA to handcuff both Bhatkal and Akhtar while taking them to different states.

Sources said Bhatkal told investigators that he had visited Dubai in 2004 where he worked at a sports shop before leaving for Karachi. Investigators are verifying whether he also flew to the United States after his Dubai visit.

According to investigators, he was helping his father in his garment business in Dubai but later left the place after disagreements developed between them.

Explaining Bhatkal’s journey into the world of terrorism, they said he met Iqbal Bhatkal, one of the founders of the Indian Mujahideen in 2002.

Bhatkal met Iqbal through one Maulana Sheesh, whom he used to visit regularly after listening to a speech in an engineering college in his hometown. Sources claimed that Bhatkal had also met Fasih Mohammed, an alleged terrorist who was arrested after his deportation from Saudi Arabia last year, in Anjuman Engineering College in Bhatkal 10 years ago.

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