Policemen search for clues at the site of a blast in Pune in August this year. Four low-intensity bomb blasts in quick succession shook the city. PTI
The claim made by the Delhi police that it has solved the 1 August Pune blast by busting an Indian Mujahideen (IM) module, flies in the face of earlier statements made by Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and the Pune police commissioner. On the day of the blast, Pune police commissioner Gulabrao Pol had said that the blast was a case of "mischief" and not an act of terror. His words were echoed by the newly sworn in Home Minister, Shinde.
However, Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar announced on 11 October that the blast was masterminded by the founder-brothers of the IM, Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal. He also said that that they had arrested Asad Khan, a resident of Aurangabad, Imran Khan, a resident of Nanded in Maharashtra and Sayed Feroz, a resident of Pune, from Nizamuddin railway station on 1 October for being involved in the blast. According to Kumar, the blast was carried out to avenge the killing of suspected IM member Qateel Siddiqui in Yerwada jail in Pune on 8 June.
Kumar alleged that the terrorists had planned everything meticulously. "They brought explosives and electronic items for assembling IEDs (improvised explosive devices) from an electrical market in Budhwarpeth, Pune. They also bought digital watches and circuit boards. Ball bearings were brought by Imran from Nanded. The accused conducted reconnaissance in Mumbai before deciding on Pune," Kumar told the media.
The whole bombing plan was done inside 55 days of Siddiqui's killing. Kumar said that vital inputs were provided by Zabiuddin Ansari, alias Abu Jundal, one of the alleged handlers of the 26/11 Mumbai attackers, who was shown to be arrested on 21 June.
However, the police commissioner did not answer how Jundal, who, as per government's own submission to the Supreme Court, was in Saudi custody, could have been a part of the plot, which was hatched after 8 June. Siddiqui was killed on 8 June, while Jundal, after being in Saudi custody for 16 days, was handed over to India on 21 June. Going by this chronology, Jundal was arrested not later than 5 June by the Saudi authorities and hence he could not have been directly associated with the plan to avenge the death of Siddiqui.
The arrest of Sayed Feroz from the Nizamuddin railway station has also raised questions on the working of the Special Cell, which is notorious for making questionable arrests. This is not for the first time that the Special Cell has arrested someone from a railway station or a metro station. Recently, the Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association (JTSA) in its report titled "Framed, Damned, Acquitted" questioned this "routine" practice of picking up suspects without enlisting the help of independent witnesses. The JTSA quoted a couple of court observations questioning the Delhi police's actions. In the State versus Irshad Ahmad Malik case, the court noticed that any effort to enlist independent witnesses "was omitted by the police deliberately".
Similarly, in the State versus Mukhtar Ahmed case, the court questioned the arrest of an alleged accused by the Special Cell and noted that "the distance between the Special Cell office and the Azadpur Mandi (from where the accused was allegedly apprehended) is 20 kms and is dotted with numerous government offices. In the four and a half hours (the time between the receipt of secret information and arrest) they had, on the long stretch to Azadpur, the Special Cell could have enlisted some credible independent witnesses."
Syed Mohammed Kazmi’s lawyer has pointed out several loopholes in the chargesheet filed by the Special Cell. This was first carried here.
The car carrying Israeli diplomat Tal Yehoshua Koren was attacked on 13 February. PTI
he chargesheet against journalist Syed Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi filed by Delhi police special cell is filled with loopholes. Kazmi's lawyer Mehmood Pracha alleges that the discrepancies prove that the Delhi police is trying to frame the journalist in the Israeli embassy car bomb blast case.
Kazmi is an accused in the attack on Israeli diplomat Tal Yehoshua Koren on 13 February, which left her seriously injured. The chargesheet names Kazmi as the main accused and lists four Iranians among the suspects. Kazmi was arrested on 6 March.
The chargesheet has three different versions on the motorbike that was allegedly used by the person who carried out the attack. According to Koren, the attacker was riding a black bike. However, two independent witnesses, "A" and "B", who were driving behind Koren's car, said that the bike was red, and that there was no bike, respectively. "These two witnesses were at a vantage point to see what was happening. Even they are not sure whether the bike was black, red, or whether there was any bike," Pracha told this newspaper.
Pracha says that his client has been "made a scapegoat". "The police had to book someone. As soon as Sanjeev Yadav of the Special Cell (SC) took over the case on 26 February, the investigation went in a wrong direction. It was he who came out with the sticky bomb theory," said Pracha.
Similarly, the Special Cell cited a mobile phone number that it alleged was being used by Houshan Afshar Irani (Iranian national accused in the case). Kazmi often called this number from his own mobile phone, the Special Cell claimed. It provided a copy of Irani's passport, which it furnished as proof for obtaining the number.
Kazmi’s lawyer said that his client was being framed because he was in the forefront of the Karbala movement and the restoration of the graveyard located under Rajdhani Nursery in BK Dutt Colony.
"It is easy to use someone else's documents to get a SIM card. How can we be sure that someone else did not use Irani's passport to buy the SIM? The copy of the passport can be easily obtained from FCRO (Foreign Credentials Referral Office) .Why wasn't the statement of the shop owner who gave the SIM taken by the Special Cell?" asked Pracha.
Surprisingly, the call records of the mobile phone allegedly used by Irani to show that he was present at the attack site have not been attached as evidence.
Pracha also questions the recovery of the "bomb making material" from room number 305 of Hotel High 5 in Karol Bagh where the alleged perpetrators of the attack were staying. According to the hotel manager, the room was unoccupied from 13 February to 26 February when the police first went there to seal the room. All the other rooms were occupied during that period.
"It is hard to believe that for 13 days no one occupied this room when all the other rooms were booked. Secondly, it's harder to believe that for 13 days the hotel staff did not go inside the room to clean it."
Kazmi's lawyer said that his client was being framed because he was in the forefront of the Karbala movement and the restoration of the graveyard located under Rajdhani Nursery in BK Dutt Colony: "He was a leading member of the movement and his writings criticising Israel were not liked by people in the establishment."
"He is innocent and soon he will be released. However more than focusing on his release, Kazmi has told me that I should also make sure that the court punishes the police personnel who have wrongly framed him," said Pracha.
The Indian government is yet to take note of the accelerating emergence of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT), a political organisation banned in several countries. The HuT was recently in the news for its alleged involvement in the failed coup attempt in Bangladesh, orchestrated to bring down Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who is seen as pro-India.
Till now, the only instance of HuT's presence acknowledged by the Indian security establishment is the demonstration that it arranged at Batla House in New Delhi, in 2010, to protest Israel's action in Gaza. "The HuT has a presence in the national capital. This was visible in the 2010 rally, which was mostly attended by students," said a top official who is with an anti-terror body. The HuT is known to be behind the floating of several NGOs that target police action in sweeping locations where terrorists are suspected to be clustered.
The HuT, which was founded in 1953 in Jerusalem by a religious cleric Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, has a presence in more than 40 countries. It aims to establish an "Islamic" way of life in Muslim countries and unify them under a caliphate. It continues to grow in several European, Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. However, it is the UK that is considered to be the HuT's main recruiting ground.
A top official with the Intelligence Bureau (IB), requesting anonymity, said that the name of HuT has not come up in any major incidents in India till now, and hence it is not seen as a major threat here. Its name also does not figure on the list of 35 organisations that have been declared as terrorist organisations under the Unlawful Activities (Preventions) Act, 1967, which has been compiled by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
"Do we need a covert organisation to give a newspaper advertisement before taking steps to check its activities?" asked a security expert in exasperation at the Indian government's "indifference" to HuT.
Another example he gave was the granting of an Indian visa to Anjem Choudhry, who has openly called for the overthrow of the political system in India and its replacement by (his version of) Shariah law.
A former RAW chief said that the emergence of HuT needs to be followed because of its philosophy. "Even though the HuT says that it is a non-violent political group, it is hard to believe this because its philosophy is based on the Khilafat movement of 1921, which turned violent in Kerala."
Former Director-General of Police (DGP) Hormis Tharakan feels that even though the HuT has not made its presence felt in India in an obvious way, yet, it cannot be conclusively ruled out that it's trying to build a base in India so as to cause serious problems to national security.
Commenting on the fact that no security agencies see HuT as a serious threat, Tharakan said, "Their presence in India cannot be ruled out just because they have not (publicly) undertaken any major incident. Security agencies have not studied the HuT deeply enough. They need to follow them and study their subtle way of functioning, which is quite dangerous."
Sanchita Bhattacharya of Institute of Conflict Management (ICM), a Delhi based think tank, did not rule out the possibility of the HuT working with the militant organisation Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) and Indian Mujahideen (IM) covertly. "The specialty about HuT is that they are focusing on scholars and elites of the Islamic society. Unlike other militant organisations that target the illiterate and the mullahs, the HuT is focusing on the progressive population of Muslims. They try to indoctrinate the educated elite."
The Hizb ut-Tahrir follows a strong anti-Jewish policy and has repeatedly called for the dismantling of Israel. Sources in the police said that the recent attacks on the Israeli diplomat are being investigated through every angle and the HuT is on the radar.
Experts believe that the modus operandi of HuT to bring military personnel, members of academia and the elite under its umbrella makes them highly dangerous. In the past they have used this method to destabilise Pakistan where it tried to bring change through the military. Brigadier Ali Khan of Pakistani army who was arrested by the police was alleged to have links with HuT and was working on a plan to bring an Egyptian and Tunisian style uprising in Pakistan.
he Intelligence bureau (IB) has expressed its concern over the expansion of Popular Front of India (PFI) which as per its reports has shifted base to Delhi.
An IB report, a copy of which is with this newspaper reads, "PFI cadres have been trained in the use of sharp-edged weapons and in fabrication and deployment of crude bombs and IEDs." Security agencies see this as a serious security threat to the VIPs living in the city.
The fact that PFI is now making its presence felt in the capital is causing more problems for the security agencies. "PFI is not a problem limited to the southern states as was manifested in the recent shifting of its national headquarters to Delhi. Why they have shifted their base to the capital is an easy guess," said a senior official.
PFI was formed in December 2006 after merger of three prominent Kerala-based Islamic organisations, National Development Front, Manitha Neethi Pasarai and Karnataka Forum for Dignity. It first grabbed headlines in 2010 when its members chopped off the hands of a professor in Kerala for "blasphemy". Following a crack down after the incident, the state police had recovered huge cache of arms and ammunition from its offices and centres.
According to the IB, PFI is clandestinely working on indoctrinating people against the state under the garb of political empowerment. A top official with IB said, "PFI is actually concentrating on taking up the cause of the so-called injustices meted out to the Muslims to garner their support for its own agenda."
The report further states that the organisation is trying to develop links with human rights groups, Left Wing Extremist elements and various Dalit bodies. "PFI has emerged as a new area of concern due to its radical Islamic belief and covert tactics. It had recently organised a secret training camp for recruits from different parts of the country in Kerala". This was confirmed by security officials. "A Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) module that was busted in Madhya Pradesh has also revealed the link of PFI with SIMI," the source said.
In May last year, one Mohammad Niaz was arrested in Paris who was believed to be recruiting members for the Popular Front's French arm. As per Indian security agencies, Niaz was trying to set up a branch of this organisation — the Popular Front of India in France. Sources say that 80 to 90% of the people influenced or accessed by the group had Gulf or foreign links.