Indian investigators have plenty to smile about with the arrest of Thadiyantavida Naseer and his associate, Shafas, who were picked up by the Bangladesh police on the Meghalaya-Bangladesh border.
Naseer is a prized catch since he played a crucial role in the various serial blasts that rocked the country. Moreover, he is also suspected to have guided terror suspect Tawwahur Rana (arrested for being a Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative by the FBI in Chicago) during the latter's visit to Kerala prior to the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Naseer's name first sprung up during the Bangalore serial blasts in 2008. The interrogation of 20 odd accused persons in connection with the blasts revealed that Naseer was behind the blasts. Intelligence Bureau sleuths who have a dossier on him say he operated as the financer of the Indian Mujahideen with Riyaz Bhatkal.
He had worked as a ginger contractor in Karnataka's Kodagu district and sheltered several accused before the blasts. He then put all the IM cadres in a rented house near Hosur in Bangalore a month before the blasts.
Naseer, who originally hails from Kerala, took to jihad almost a decade ago. He started off as a small time operative who took part in anti-India meetings in Kerala. During this period, Naseer was accused in two murder cases and was also an accused in an attempt to murder case relating to then Chief Minister E K Nayanar. He was also booked by the police for setting a Tamil Nadu state transport bus on fire.
The IB says that Naseer was passionate about the cause and that what made the Lashkar-e-Tayiba rope him in as one of their main cadres. His first assignment with the Lashkar was to arrange for recruits. He travelled between Kerala and Karnataka and conducted several underground meetings and recruited many young men. In fact he teamed up with Bhatkal and recruited a core team of jihadis who were later sent into Kashmir to battle the Indian Army. This in fact was his first major assignment which sprung him to fame.
Naseer was then handed over a new role. This led the birth of the Indian Mujahideen, which was nothing but another wing of the LeT. The IB says that he travelled extensively between the Gulf and Pakistan while setting up the IM and finally he was asked to handle the finances of this outfit. Naseer single-handedly managed to rope in a lot of Gulf contacts who financed IM operations in India.
His first major assignment with the IM was the serial blasts which rocked Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi. He operated mostly out of Karnataka and Kerala. It was only after these blasts that the Indian security agencies raised the heat on him.
Intelligence Bureau officials say that Naseer had stayed on in Kerala for sometime after the blasts. It was during this time that he came in contact with Rana whom the Indian agencies say played a vital role along with David Headley (also arrested by the FBI in Chicago) in the 26/11 attacks. During Rana's visit, Naseer played a vital role in helping set up a fake job agency. In turn Rana helped Naseer and his brother-in-law Shafas get out of Kerala. The IB says that they had information that the duo had slipped into Bangladesh and were directed to lie low before undertaking further operations.