More towns on Lashkar radar

More towns on Lashkar radar

Pune blast: Sleuths suspect explosion to be LeT handiwork executed by IM

More towns on Lashkar radar

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad and the National Investigation Team are jointly conducting the probe into the Pune bombing and the early consensus is that it was a LeT handiwork executed by the IM, which has established a strong base in Pune.

The IM itself was founded by two Karnataka brothers Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal, hailing from Bhatkal, in 2005 after Students Islamic Movement of India was outlawed.

Home Ministry sources here said the terrorists must have deviated at the last minute from their original plan of bombing either the Osho Commune or the Jewish prayer centre, Chhabad House, the two places which were surveyed by David Headley. The suspects must have noticed high security at both the places and opted for German Bakery, the “soft target”.

Pune, the rising IT hub of India, has been a powerful base for IM to recruit highly skilled IT professionals. It is now believed that Headley created sleeper terror modules in smaller cities like Pune to execute bomb attacks at a short notice.

Investigators are also trying to decipher Headley’s emails which they now believe to be in code. For example, a reference to “Rahul” in three Headley emails might be a code for Pune, and “North of Pune” might be the code for Mumbai.

An email sent by Headley on July 8, 2009 to LeT stated that “I think when we get a chance we should revisit our last location again and say hi to Rahul.” The LeT’s response was “To see Rahul is a good idea because have some work over there for you too. Matters are good enough to move forward.”

The next email from Headley to LeT of July 9, 2009 stated that “When you say move forward, do you mean in the north direction or towards Rahul?” and the LeT’s reply was “I mean towards Rahul.”

These emails coupled with the suspected involvement of IM is leading investigators in their present search for the culprits.

The IM itself was first busted in 2008 with a series of arrests. Twenty-one members were jailed for all major blasts in the country since 2005, including the blasts in Mumbai trains in 2006, and terror attacks in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi in 2008. Of the 21 men arrested, 11 were from Pune. The Bhatkals, however, escaped and are believed to be in Karachi.

Mansur Peerbhoy, the man who sent all the terror mails before the blasts, was among those caught in 2008. He told his interrogators that he became a radical at Pune’s Quran Foundation. He also said IM activities are headquartered around Pune because of its proximity to Mumbai but offers the cover of a small city to those plotting attacks.

Peerbhoy had come in contact with Riyaz Bhatkal in 2007 and was recruited in the IM soon. Peerbhoy and other IM operatives who are behind bars are being questioned once again for clues into Pune bombing.

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