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IM outsmarts agencies, continues to target India

Feb 25, 2013 09:16 PM IST India India

New Delhi: At least seven major terror strikes since 2006 in the country have been linked to Indian Mujahideen, the banned terror outfit. Intelligence agencies consider the outfit's leader, Bhatkal brothers, as India's most wanted terror suspects. Agents believe the outfit now virtually works as a BPO unit for its handlers.

Every time terror strikes India, intelligence agencies turn the spotlight on three faces - Yaseen, Riyaz and Iqbal Shahbandari, better known by their suffix Bhatkal, except the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. As many as five states have arrested almost 93 Indian Mujahideen operatives after blasts, and each time, the outsourcing model of the outfit has outsmarted the police.

Intelligence agencies believe two of the Shahbandari brothers - Riyaz and Iqbal - mastermind operations from outside India, with their locations varying from Pakistan to Sharjah to Dubai, with the elusive Yaseen using his expertise in explosives and logistics to micro-manage operations in India. The Indian Mujahideen's rise as a terror outfit has been quick despite the 2008 crackdown when the Intelligence Bureau and police went after them in Delhi.

Intelligence sources insist the Indian Mujahideen has replaced the waning influence of the D-company. Their use of outsourced foot-soldiers, recruited from small towns in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar, has allowed the terror tap to continue to flow despite arrests of key last-mile suspects like Maqbool, currently lodged in Tihar jail, and Fasih Mohammad and Danish Ansari.

Intelligence sources say IM's rise is linked to Dawood's failing health. They say Dawood's younger brother Anees is focusing more on real estate, and Chhota Shakeel is re-investing his fortune in the corporate sector. In fact, Maharashtra police's anti-terror squad is currently hunting for four key IM operatives who they believe struck not only in Mumbai's Zaveri Bazaar, but could hold the key to Hyderabad's twin blasts last week.

The use of cycles, the chemical composition of the bombs and the delivery mechanism has convinced investigators that Hyderabad was another Indian Mujahideen job. Their entire probe has focused on questioning IM suspects already in various jails across Delhi, Bihar, Maharashtra and Ahmedabad, where the police had actually claimed to have ended the Indian Mujahideen by arresting 60 suspects in 2008.

The Hyderabad police now believe the IM continued to tap into local residents, with Yaseen providing explosive and logistics expertise. Police believe their efforts were helped by divisive local politics, keeping up the steady supply of operatives for blasts.

Before leaving India, Indian Mujahideen commanders were believed to be operating from Delhi's Shaheen Bagh area. An Indian Mujahideen suspect, Tarique, had told police that Yaseen even married a girl from the area.

Significantly, Yaseen had once slipped out of Kolkata police's grasp with officers goofing up by arresting him only as a petty fake currency operator in 2009. Yaseen jumped bail and since then, he has been reported to be spotted in Chennai and Delhi and striking almost at will across the nation.