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Arrest of Yasin Bhatkal: An Analysis

Anshuman Behera was Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi.
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  • September 02, 2013

    “The ghost who bombs” has been captured. Mohammad Ahmed Zarar Siddibappa @ Yasin Bhatkal @ Saharukh @ Imran, the kingpin of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) was arrested along with Asadullah Akhtar @ Haddi (accused in helping Yasin Bhatkal in carrying out terror strikes in Dilsukhnagar, Hyderabad in February 2013), from the India-Nepal border on August 28, 2013 by the Bihar Police in a joint operation with the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

    The NIA special court had issued non-bailable warrants against these two wanted IM terrorists on 18th July, 2013. Yasin Bhatkal’s arrest is the second major breakthrough for law enforcement agencies with in a span of two weeks. Abdul Karim Tunda of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was arrested from the India-Nepal border on August 16, 2013.

    Yasin Bhatkal, took over as the head on the IM after both of his brothers, Iqbal Bhatkal and Riaz Bhatkal escaped to Pakistan in 2008. He has been successful in indoctrinating Muslim youth and recruiting them in the IM and carrying out several blasts in Delhi High Court in September 2011, Mumbai in July 2011, Chinaswamy Stadium in Bangaluru in April 2010, German Bakery in February 2010, Ahmedabad in 2008 and twin blasts in Hyderabad in August 2007 amongst others.

    The arrest of Bhatkal is important, and highlights the measures taken by security agencies to apprehend a number of terrorists in the last few years. This has been as a result of improved coordination among security agencies in different states. At the same time investigative agencies have been successful in identifying the linkages and modus operandi of terrorist outfits. Bhatkal’s arrest was preceded by a number of arrests of important IM terrorists by security agencies. In 2012, half a dozen important IM terrorists were arrested. They included: Kafeel Akhtar (co-conspirator of Chinaswamy stadium blast) from Darbhanga on May 7, 2012; Mohammad Kafeel Ahmad, one of the recruiters of IM on February 21, 2012 from Darbhanga, Mohammad Tariq Anjuman Hassan, another IM recruiter on February 2, 2012 from Nalanda, Bihar; Fasih Mohammad from Saudi Arabia October 22, 2012; Talha Abdali @ Israr, one of the closest aides of Yasin Bhatkal from Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh on February 5, 2012; and Naqi Ahmed Wasi, suspected to have executed Mumbai blasts, on July 13, 2007, from Mumbai. Such initiatives and arrests by the law enforcement agencies indicate the seriousness of measures to crack down on the IM.

    These arrests have possibly provided important information about various aspects and links of the IM activities. For instance, it has been widely reported that enforcement agencies have claimed that the name of Fasih Mehmood, who was deported from the Saudi Arabia, first came up during the interrogation of Kafeel Ahmed. Similarly the name of Yasin Bhatkal first surfaced during the interrogation of arrested IM operative, Mohammad Akbar, Ismail Chaudhary, in 2008. In addition to these arrests, the NIA has filed a charge-sheet against five IM operatives: Mohammad Danish Ansari, Mohammad Aftab Alam, Imran Khan, Syed Maqbool and Obaid Ur Rahman on July 17, 2013. These five have been charged on grounds of hatching conspiracy to carry out terrorist attacks in India and for being members of an outlawed outfit. The NIA on September 10, 2012 had also registered a FIR against 12 IM operatives. They include: Yasin Bhatkal, Riyaz Bhatkal, Iqbal Bhatkal. Mohammad Iqbal, Mohsin Choudhary, Amir Reza Khan, Tahsin Akhtar, Shahnawaz Alam, Asadullah Akhtar, Ariz Khan, Mohammad Sajid, Mohammad Khalid and Mirza Shadab Beg.

    Cooperation with foreign countries has also helped intelligence agencies to nab some of the important terrorists. Intelligence sharing with countries such as the US, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates (UAE), has been of great help. For the last couple of years India has been able to apprehend some important terror operatives from countries like Saudi Arabia. They include: Fasih Mahmood, an IM operative, deported from Saudi Arabia on October 22, 2012, Abu Jundal, an LeT operative and one of the link men between the LeT and the IM was arrested from Saudi Arabia, A Rayees, wanted for a case relating to seizure of ammonium nitrate from Kannaur district of Kerala in 2009, was also deported from Saudi Arabaia and recently, Abdul Sathar @ Manzoor who was deported from Saudi Arabia on August 2, 2013 for allegedly participating in a terror camp at Wagamon in the Kottayam district of Kerala in 2007. Abdul Sathar, a member of the banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), was reportedly hiding in Abu Dhabi and was involved in hatching terror strikes against India with absconding SIMI and IM operatives.

    In the case of Yasin Bhatkal’s arrest, some media reports indicate the role of a third country in providing intelligence tip off. It is, however, important to mention that no official claim in this regard has been made. As mentioned by R K Singh, former Home Secretary, to the media, “This fellow (Yasin Bhatkal) has been the most active terrorist in the IM group. He himself was a bomb planter, organiser and he was in fact one of the most potent terrorists in that (IM) stable”. Yasin Bhatkal is believed to have developed sleeper cells and modules in states such as Bihar, Maharastra, Delhi, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

    Bhatkal’s arrest is a psychological boost for intelligence and investigative agencies. Importantly Bhatkal is likely to emerge as a goldmine of information on IM operations, and Pakistani support for its activities. Important information relating to the organisational structure, network, cadre strength and funding sources of the IM could be available from this operative.

    But this, certainly, is not the end of IM as a terrorist organisation. Three of IM’s important leaders, Iqbal Bhatkal, Riyaz Bhatkal and Amir Reza Khan are believed to be hiding in Karachi, Pakistan. As mentioned earlier, Yasin Bhatkal has recruited many young Muslims into the IM. With his arrest, activities of the IM may suffer temporarily, but various terror modules and sleeper cells he has already developed may carry out terror strikes in future. A constant monitoring of the movement of operatives, coordination among several security and investigative agencies and cooperation with foreign countries may help in limiting the existing influence of IM.

    Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.