New Delhi/Patna: Yasin Bhatkal, co-founder of banned terror outfit Indian Mujahideen, wanted in around 40 blast cases and carrying a reward of Rs.35 lakh, has been arrested from Indo-Nepal border, in the second prize catch after LeT mastermind Abdul Karim Tunda in the last fortnight.
On the run for over five years in several countries including Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, 30-year-old Yasin was nabbed in a joint operation by intelligence agencies and Bihar police. He was arrested along with another IM leader Asadulla Akhtar alias ‘Haddi'.
Yasin and Akhtar will be flown to Delhi tomorrow in a special plane and formally handed over to NIA, a senior official said.
While Delhi and NIA had announced Rs.10 lakh each, Mumbai police had announced Rs.15 lakh to anyone giving information leading to Yasin's arrest.
“Yasin Bhatkal was traced along the Bihar-Nepal border last night by our intelligence agencies. He is under the custody of Bihar police and his interrogation is going on,” Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters outside Parliament House today.
National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the arrest. Yasin was taken to Motihari in Bihar for being produced in a court for transit remand.
He hit the spotlight after the 2008 Delhi serial blasts in which 30 people were killed. He was suspected to be the mastermind of these five blasts.
During the probe, his role was traced back to 2004 as for allegedly distributing explosive material from Karnataka. He is also suspected to have played an active role in the 2006 Mumbai serial train blasts that left 187 people dead.
Yasin, who hails from Bhatkal village of Udupi district in North Karnataka, is wanted in a string of terror attacks in Ahmedabad, Surat, Bangalore, Pune, Delhi and Hyderabad. It is the second major breakthrough for Indian agencies after the arrest of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)bomb expert Abdul Karim Tunda on August 16.
Yasin, who is also wanted in the German Bakery bomb blast in Pune on February 13, 2010, that left 17 dead, formed IM with his borther Riaz and associates Riyaz Shahbandri, Abdul Subhan Qureshi, Sadiq Israr Sheikh and gangster-turned terrorist Amir Reza Khan.
The IM, patronised by Pakistan-based LeT, was designated a terrorist group by the government under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in June, 2010. The banned outfit was declared by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in 2011.
Government sources said Yasin was planning to go to Bangladesh from Nepal to meet his contacts there.
In Patna, Additional Director General of Police (Headquarters) Ravindra Kumar told reporters that Yasin and his associate Asadulla Akhtar alias Haddi were arrested near Nahar Chowk in Raxual sub-division of Bihar's East Champaran district on the Indo-Nepal border, around 100 km from Patna. This followed inputs that they were plotting a terror strike, he said.
Yasin, also known as Mohd Zarar Ahmed Siddhibappa, along with three aides Tahaseen Akhtar Wasim Aktar Shaikh (23), Asadulla Akhtar (26) and Waqas alias Ahmed (26), was allegedly behind three coordinated bomb explosions at Opera House, Zaveri Bazaar and Dadar West in Mumbai on July 13, 2011, that left 27 dead and 130 injured.
Except Tahaseen, who allegedly planted a bomb in the Dadar blast, the rest three were also suspected to have played a role in the four co-ordinated low-intensity explosions, which struck the busy arterial road in the heart of Pune city on August 1, 2012. Eight accused had been arrested in this connection.
Tahaseen hails from Samastipur in Bihar while Asadullah is from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh.
Yasin was spotted on Close Circuit television minutes ahead of German bakery blast in Pune as also in Hyberabad earlier this year.
Former Home Secretary R K Singh said Yasin has been the most active terrorist in the IM. “He himself was a bomb planter, organiser and he was infact one of the most potent terrorists in that (IM) stable,” Singh said. “We have been after him. Catching him, therefore, I think, is a great success,” he said.
The former Home Secretary said Bhatkal gave the agencies slip at least twice earlier.
“Once it was said he was arrested in Kolkata but they (security agencies) did not have his identity and he managed to get bail and on another occasion again, our agencies had worked out a plan but he managed to give a slip,” Singh said.
In Bangalore, Karnataka police said it will seek Yasin's custody to question him on his role in terror attacks in Bangalore