HOMELAND SECURITY: Key bakery ‘bomber’ caught – Cuffs on Net café manager – you can run, but you cannot hide ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Mumbai, Sept. 8: The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad today claimed to have caught a cyber café manager who plotted and executed Pune’s German Bakery blast, which killed 17 people, including four youngsters from Calcutta.
Mirza Himayat Baig, 29, was arrested from a bus stand in Pune yesterday afternoon after a six-month investigation that spanned Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Daman and Diu, Tamil Nadu and New Delhi.
Baig is the Maharashtra chief of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the ATS said. He was produced in a Pune court and remanded in police custody.
Two Pune-based alleged Indian Mujahideen operatives, Mohsin Chaudhary and Mohammed Ahmed Zarar Siddibappa alias Yasin Bhatkal, are also wanted for the February 13 blast, the ATS said, giving details of the plot. Fifty-six people, including several foreign nationals, were injured.
ATS chief Rakesh Maria said the conspiracy to target the popular café, which was frequented by Osho Ashram disciples in the evenings, was hatched at the Global Internet Café at Udgir in Latur, where Baig worked as a manager. Mohsin and Yasin were present at the meeting held in the last week of January.
“On January 31, Baig travelled to Pune and conducted a recce of German Bakery to find out when the crowds come in, and what time foreigners are present in the bakery. On February 3, a second meeting was held at the Udgir cyber café and plans finalised. The explosives were brought to the cyber café between 1am and 5am on the night of February 7,” said Maria, who took over the investigations as the ATS chief in March this year.
By February 12, the group had completed assembling the bomb, which was fitted with a mobile phone, with the phone alarm used as the timer. The group left Udgir that night and reached Pune the next afternoon.
“Around 4-4.30pm on February 13, Yasin planted the bomb inside the bakery, while Baig stood outside and kept watch,” Maria said.
The youngsters from Calcutta were hanging out at the café with friends when the bomb went off under a table. They were among the 17 killed.
ATS investigations had earlier revealed that the bomb, put inside a backpack of the kind commonly used by Pune college students, had been lying unnoticed for over two hours. It exploded around 6.50pm when the café was packed with Oshoites. Yasin was captured by the CCTV camera installed above the cashier’s counter at the entrance. Baig was wanted earlier by the ATS in an Unlawful Activities Prevention Act case of 2008 and another Arms Act case.
Originally part of the Lashkar module involved in the May 2006 Aurangabad arms haul — 43kg of RDX were seized — Baig came in contact with Mohsin’s brother Akbar, who introduced him to Karnataka-based Indian Mujahideen founders Iqbal and Riyaz Shahbadri alias Iqbal and Riyaz Bhatkal, Maria said.
“Baig is a very important catch as he has created a huge module in the state, by merging the Maharashtra modules of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Indian Mujahideen. They had planned on targeting various locations in the state,” the ATS chief said.
Hours after the arrest of Baig, a second alleged Lashkar operative was arrested from the outskirts of Nashik. Sheikh Lalbaba Mohammed Hussain Farid alias Bilal, 27, was caught with 2kg of RDX, bomb-making literature, SIM cards, cellphones, pen drives and $1,300 from Satpur Industrial Estate late last night.
Although Bilal was not named by the ATS in the German Bakery case when he was produced in a Nashik court today, officials said he could be booked in the case as the investigations progress.