Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bhatkal's attempt to escape falls flat

For some, tragedy throws up an opportunity. Or at least that is what Abdul Sammad Bhatkal thought when he boarded a flight from Dubai to Mangalore, still recovering from a horrific plane crash that killed over 150 people.

Bhatkal, wanted for his alleged role in the 26/11 attack and the Pune blasts, was arrested at the Mangalore airport. According to the initial investigations,Bhatkal never planned to slip into India this time. Thinking that the security officials will be lax in Mangalore especially after a tragedy of such magnitude, Bhatkal pre-poned his visit and tried slipping out easily. But that was not to be.

Armed with fake documents, Sammad decided to fly and then slip into Bhatkal, a place in North Karnataka. He managed to dodge agencies in Dubai with fake documents. On reaching Mangalore, he even cleared the immigration, but while picking up his luggage, the police team apprehended him. The police said Bhaktal intentionally was trying to use the Mangalore tragedy as an opportunity to slip into India.

For the police, Bhatkal is a prize catch they think he is part of the deadly quadruple that also include Riyaz, Iqbal and Yaseen.

Bhatkal name first cropped up post-26/11. He was in Pakistan at that time and the role of the Bhatkals had come under scrutiny. His name had cropped up as one of the conspirators at that time too. Despite a look-out notice being issued against him following that attack, he managed to dodge investigators and helped carry out the Pune blasts. Intelligence Bureau officials told that his role in these attacks is yet to be ascertained. Even if at the end of it if his role is not directly established, he still would be able to lead us up to the rest of the Bhatkals who we can say with conviction, he is very close to. At the moment, we are ascertaining whether he had provided logistic support during this incident.

Journey: Sammad was born in Bhatkal and carried out some odd jobs before he left for Dubai to join his father. His father runs a cutlery shop in Dubai. The first visit made by Sammad to Dubai was on a visiting visa. He frequented Bhatkal, several times and met up with Riyaz Bhatkal on every possible occasion. He had a close association with Riyaz since the two are related.

All of them worked for the SIMI before Riyaz helped in setting up the countrywide operations of the Indian Mujahideen. The rest of the Bhatkals later became a part of this group. All of them were in India at the time the blasts at Bangalore, Delhi and Ahmedabad took place. However, Riyaz and his brother Iqbal fled the country following that. It was that point of time that another relative Yaseen came into the picture and managed the operations in India. For a brief period of time, Sammad helped with the operation, but he too had to flee the country.

Yaseen, who is named at the mastermind in the Pune blasts, had a closer association with Sammad since both were in Dubai. Yaseen, a civil engineer, was named by Riyaz himself as the mastermind in the Pune blasts. This was said during a telephonic conversation between Salman Ansari, a IM operative. Ansari who was picked up by the Delhi police had stated that while trying to flee to Nepal, he had sought the help of Riyaz. He further stated that he had congratulated Riyaz on the Pune operation and it was at time the name of Yaseen was mentioned.

The Mumai ATS will now probe into the role played by Sammad in the attack. They would probe whether he had directly played a part in the blast or had just provided logistic support. Further they would also question him whether his role in the 26/11 attack since he was in Pakistan at that point of time. Apart from this they would also seek clues on the location of the other Bhatkals.

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