Culprits behind Pune blast identified: ATS

Indian Mujahideen co-founder Mohsin and Bhatkal brothers the main suspects, says report

Culprits behind Pune blast identified: ATS

The German Bakery in Pune after the February 13, 2010, blast. AFP

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Wednesday submitted its report on the investigations into the blast, which killed 17 people, to the state home ministry, identifying the Indian Mujahideen (IM) as the perpetrators of heinous crime.

It also named the persons involved in planning and executing the blast, although details were not revealed to the media for obvious security reasons.

The report was formally presented by the newly appointed ATS chief Rakesh Maria to the home department which has forwarded it to the Central government.

Only recently, the Central government froze over a dozen bank accounts of the IM suspects in Pune. The chief suspect is Mohsin Chaudhary, a Pune resident and one of the founder members of the IM. He has since disappeared from Pune.

The investigators are on a lookout for Mohsin and other IM terrorists suspected to be behind the blast. The others are IM founder Riyaz Bhatkal who had lived in Pune for four years before settling in Pakistan, Abdus Subhan Qureshi and Riyaz’s brother Iqbal Bhatkal. The fifth suspect is Mohammad Amjad Khwaja from Hyderabad, who was arrested in January by the Andhra Pradesh police. He had told investigators that he was shown videos of the Osho Ashram in Pune, which is close to the Bakery.

While the Bhatkal brothers are believed to be hiding in Karachi, a massive manhunt has been launched for Mohsin Chaudhary and Abdus Subhan Qureshi.

The blast in Pune was reportedly triggered as part of what is called the Karachi Project, planned by the Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which was behind the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, and its front organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

The details of the alleged Karachi Project were revealed by the LeT operative David Headley to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, to whom the Indian investigators are seeking access for questioning him.

The chargesheet against Headley quoted him as saying that the brothers, Riyaz and Iqbal, were being sheltered by the LeT in Karachi. Headley himself had visited Pune twice and conducted recce of the Osho Commune and other places in the vicinity. He had stayed at the Surya Villa, close to the German Bakery.

The IM's signature on the Pune blast appears to be quite visible as it is similar to the blasts that took place in Varanasi, Hyderabad and Delhi in 2008. A pointer in this direction is the explosives used in the blast, which was a mixture of ammonium nitrate and RDX.

Ammonium nitrate was one of the key components used in the Delhi serial blasts, also believed to be the handiwork of the IM. The technique of packing explosives in a bag and leaving it unattended is also similar to the one used for Delhi serial blasts.

State home minister R R Patil told the legislative council on Tuesday that the investigating agency had identified the suspects and more details would be disclosed after their arrest. “The police department has zeroed in on the accused. We have identified them and will soon reveal more information about the case,” Patil said.

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