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Pune blast suspect holds key to IM terror network

May 26, 2010 18:34 IST

The interrogation of Pune blast suspect Abdul Sammad Bhatkal is providing investigating agencies crucial clues about his brother and key Indian Mujahideen operative Yaseen Bhatkal.

Sammad, who was arrested at the Mangalore airport on Monday, is being interrogated by teams from the Intelligence Bureau and the Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad.

Yaseen Bhatkal was the mastermind in orchestrating the Pune blast at the German bakery on February 13, while Sammad took care of logistical details and organising funds, sources said. Sammad admitted that he had been involved in hawala transactions, but did not divulge too many details.

The IB is quizzing him about the funds raised by the IM and other activities of the terror outfit.

Sammad had earlier been detained by the Karnataka police in 2008 and questioned about two bomb-making units near his hometown Bhatkal. The police had also questioned him about his involvement in a meeting attended by terror suspects Riyaz, Iqbal and Yaseen Bhatkal. However, the police let him go because they could not find any links between him and the terror operations.

A former police officer from Bhatkal told that Riyaz, Iqbal, Yaseen and Sammad were small-time criminals who joined terror operations for money, not ideological reasons.

Riyaz, considered to be the founder of the IM, worked as a double agent in Bhatkal by passing on information to warring Hindu and Muslim factions. His brother Iqbal and relatives Sammad and Yaseen also took part in communal activities. But after Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence spread its network in Bhatkal, the brothers were inducted into their terror operations.

But the police are yet to find any conclusive evidence on Sammad. The Pune police are trying to ascertain whether he is the same man who was spotted in the CCTV footage of the German bakery. Both Yaseen and his brother Sammad look similar and according to the Pune police, the latter was in Dubai during the blast.

"He can lead us through the network of IM and also give information about the location of the Bhatkal brothers, which is very vital to the investigations," said a source in the IB.

Vicky Nanjappa