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Azam Cheema may not be involved in 26/11 attacks: IB
Vicky Nanjappa | February 27, 2009 19:55 IST
Indian security agencies were hoping to get hold of Azam Cheema alias Babaji. When the investigation into the 26/11 Mumbai [Images] attacks began, India was hopeful that they could lay their hands on Cheema, chief of the Dasta Mohammad bin Qasim, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba [Images] wing that carries out deadly attacks on Indian soil.
Intercepts picked up by the Intelligence Bureau suggested that 56-year-old Cheema suffers from various ailments and could not take part in planning the murderous crimes. It was stated that he had stepped down from an operational role four months before the attacks.
Cheema's name resurfaced when the Mumbai police obtained call records of the terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan. Page 53 of India's dossier to Pakistan details a telephonic conversation that mentions a person named Baba.
The caller from Pakistan, while speaking to one of the terrorists, says, 'People will run helter-skelter when they see flames. Keep throwing a grenade every fifteen minutes or so. It will terrorise. Here talk to Baba.' Baba says, 'A lot of policemen and navy personnel have covered the area. Be brave.'
When this transcript was made public the initial suspicion was that Baba was Cheema.
Intelligence Bureau sources told rediff.com that they probed this angle to find out if the caller was referring to Cheema. However, there is no evidence to show that it is Cheema. IB sources say it is unlikely Cheema took part in planning the attacks.
Mumbai police sources also confirmed that the man was not Cheema.
"We have taken extreme precaution while preparing the chargesheet and have not taken the names of any person against whom we do not have proof. The chargesheet has been prepared on the basis of the information gathered, the evidence on record, the statements by Ajmal Kasab [Images], Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed," a Mumbai police officer said.
"Federal Bureau of Investigation assistance was also taken and nowhere is there evidence to establish that the man referred to as Baba is Azam Cheema. We have evidence to link the role of each of the men mentioned in the chargesheet," he added.
IB sources said the pressure to extradite Cheema will continue since he is largely responsible for setting up Lashkar operations in India. A red-corner notice has already been issued against Cheema in 2004 itself.