Intelligence agencies probing Sunday’s serial blasts in Patna believe that with the arrest of Yasin Bhatkal in August, Tehsin Akthar from Bihar is the new leader of the terrorist organisation, reports Vicky Nanjappa.
The name of the Indian Mujahideen has cropped up in the Patna serial blasts that killed six people and injured 100 more ahead of Narendra Modi’s rally on Sunday.
If the IM hand is confirmed, this was the first attack by the outfit since the arrest of its leader, Yasin Bhatkal, in August.
After Bhatkal’s arrest, intelligence agencies had said the terrorist organisation would be run by Tehsin Akthar, who was also one of the players in the 13/7 (July 2011) serial bombing in Mumbai.
The Bihar police believe Tehsin masterminded the Patna attack to ‘avenge’ the recent riots in Muzzafarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, and also to show that the IM is still active after the arrests of Yasin and his aide Assadullah Akthar.
Tehsin, a resident of Samastipur, Bihar, was tasked with setting up an IM module in Ranchi, intelligence sources said.
The National Investigation Agency has been on his trail ever since Tehsin gave them the slip following the 2011 Mumbai attack, along with another player known as Waqas.
According to Intelligence Bureau sources, Tehsin did not flee India after the 13/7 attacks, and instead hid in Bihar for a considerable period of time.
Assadullah, who was arrested along with Yasin, had told the intelligence agencies that they had managed to escape from Mumbai after they saw the news on television about a possible manhunt by the agencies around the blast sites.
Waqas and Tehsin are believed to have taken shelter in Darbhanga, Bihar. Assadullah and Yasin joined them later.
For a considerable amount of time, Tehsin remained below the radar. A month after the 13/7 blasts, the IM started to groom him into becoming the second in command.
He was told that due to intense intelligence focus on the Darbhanga module, there was a need to set up another module in Bihar.
According to the intelligence sources, the IM chose not to move out of Bihar since it felt the politics in the state was helpful.
This led to the setting up of the Ranchi module in nearby Jharkhand. Intelligence sleuths believe feel there are about 30 members in the Ranchi module, which Tehsin is heading.
Tehsin, according to an intelligence dossier on him, has been with the IM for six years. He joined the outfit around the same time that Yasin did.
That Tehsin was part of the core team is proved by the fact that he was one of the very few members that Yasin kept in touch with.
He was part of every blast that Yasin masterminded, and Tehsin’s name has cropped up in the Hyderabad, Chinnaswamy Stadium bombing in Bengaluru in 2010, and Delhi blasts as well.
Yasin is learnt to have told his interrogators that Tehsin was part of a five-member core team, who would mastermind blasts.
These core members keep in touch directly and avoid using the phone or the Internet. This has led the investigators to believe that they move around together.
Yasin is also have understood to have told the NIA that the IM wanted to ensure that the second in command was prepared to take up organisational responsibilities at all times. After Assadullah was arrested, Tehsin took on the mantle of leader.
Last month, an NIA team travelled to Samastipur and questioned his father Mohammad Wasim Akthar. They sought to know about Tehsin’s whereabouts as they believed that he had taken shelter with his father after the Mumbai attack.
The NIA team later also took DNA samples of Tehsin’s father.