The Mumbai police arrested three persons, two of them engineers, in connection with sending the threatening e-mails for Indian Mujahideen, and claimed to have busted the media cell of the terror group suspected to be behind a string of bomb blasts since 2005.
The members of the IM's media cell, arrested from Pune, were identified as Mohammed Mansoor Asghar Peerbhoy (31), Mobin Kader Shaikh (24) and Asif Bashruddin Shaikh (22).
Peerbhoy was working in an MNC as a principal software engineer, Mubin was employed in an IT firm as a senior technical advisor and Asif was a mechanical engineer by education, the police said.
Threatening e-mails were sent to media organisations prior to the July 26 Ahmedabad and September 13 Delhi serial blasts from unsecured wireless Internet connections in Navi Mumbai and Mumbai respectively.
Another email was sent from a wireless Internet connection at a college in central Mumbai.
"Prior to the Ahmedabad blasts, they had come to Mumbai to find wireless Internet connections and went to locations like Sanpada in Navi Mumbai, Chembur, Sion and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus," Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Rakesh Maria said on Monday.
On July 26, the trio left Pune at 0900 hours and went to Sanpada from where they sent the e-mail using the unsecured Internet connection of American national Kenneth Heywood at 1840 hours, just before the blasts in Ahmedabad, as per orders given to them, he said.
"They sat in the car in which they came and sent the e-mail after which they left," Maria said.
The e-mail at the time of Delhi blasts was also sent in a similar manner from the Internet connection of the Kamath family in suburban Chembur, he said.
The police suspect the trio was working directly under senior IM operative Riyaz Bhatkal alias Roshan Khan.
"Bhatkal and his brother would send the basic details to Asif, who with Mobin, would write the email. They would then take it to Peerbhoy, who knew English well, to prepare the final draft of the e-mail," Maria said.
The emails were suspected to have been prepared a week prior to them being sent, he said. The police have seized a laptop, radio frequency detectors, a wireless router, six computers and other equipment from the trio.
"They would send the emails from Mumbai to divert attention from where they actually lived and since it wasm easier to find unsecured wireless Internet connections in a large city like Mumbai," Maria said.
The writers of the e-mail made their own contributions to the basic format supplied by Bhatkal and in some cases took religious quotes directly from some Web sites and added them to the emails, he said.
Mobin and Peerbhoy did a course on hacking in Hyderabad for which IM allegedly paid the fee of Rs 70,000, the police said.
However, Abdus Subhan Qureshi alias Tauqeer, allegedly the mastermind behind sending the e-mails, according to the Gujarat police, is still wanted in the case despite no evidence of his role in the matter.
"Till April 2008 we know that he was in Surat and Ahmedabad and why he (Tauqeer) had gone there is still a subject of our investigations," Maria said.
In all, 15 suspected members of Indian Mujahideen, who planned blasts in Mumbai during the ongoing Navratri celebrations, were arrested in connection with a string of explosions in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru.
These persons were arrested between September 28 and October 5 at locations in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka, Maria said.
The arrested members of IM were planning blasts in the country's financial capital during the ongoing Navratri celebrations, Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Gaffoor said.
Three of the fifteen arrested are alleged to be part of the media wing of Indian Mujahideen, which had sent threatening emails using wireless Internet connections in Mumbai around the time the serial blasts were carried out at Ahmedabad and New Delhi, Maria said.
"Ten of the arrested persons were involved in the making of bombs, carrying out surveillance and keeping them in Surat," Maria said.
Over two dozen low-intensity bombs were found in various localities of Surat after the serial blasts in Ahmedabad on July 26.
"The crime branch launched one of the largest manhunts in the country to arrest these persons," he said.
One of the accused, Asif Bashir Shaikh, had allegedly made the bombs, used in Surat and Bengaluru on July 25, with
digital timers, Maria said.
"Two persons, Mohammed Ali Ahmed (44) and his son Javed Ali (19), were arrested from Mangalore for allegedly harbouring IM members before and after the serial blasts," he said.
The police, during their raid in Mangalore, missed their prime target Riyaz Bhatkal alias Roshan Khan, the alleged IM head.
At least half a dozen of them had undergone training at Bhatkal in Karnataka organised between June and July 2007.
Equipment used in the training, including weapons, bulletproof jackets and life jackets besides jihadi literature have been seized, Maria said.
The police were also looking to stem the economic pipeline of the IM, which is suspected to be coming through legitimate cash transfers and hawala transactions, he said.
Also, Rs 11.39 lakh were seized by the police during the raids, which he said were being used to fund the group's activities. The terror group had also funded two of its media cell members to attend a training course on hacking in Hyderabad.
The fifteen arrested accused are Asif Bashir Shaikh, Mohammed Mansoor Asghar Peerbhoy, Mubin Kadar Shaikh, Mohammed Atiq Mohammed Iqbal, Dastagir Phiroz Mujawar, Mohammed Akbar Ismail Chaudhary, Anique Shafique Sayed, Majid Akhtar Shaikh, Yasir Anis Sayed, Farooq Sharfuddin Tarkash, Fazal-e-Rehman Mus Khan Durani, Ahmed Bawa Abubakr, Mohammed Ali Ahmed, Javed Mohammed Ali and Sayed Mohammed Naushad.