Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gafoor is the new director general of ACB

S Ahmed Ali & Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Former city police commissioner Hasan Gafoor, who got in to a controversy for his remarks that four of his juniors were reluctant to go on field during the 26/11 terror attack, was on Friday, transferred to the anti-corruption bureau as director-general (DG). P P Srivastava, additional DGP (law and order) has been promoted to DG and will head the Maharashtra Police Housing Corporation, replacing Gafoor.

Additional DG Sanjeev Dayal, an upright officer, who returned from a year-long study leave will head Special Operations, a new post created after the Naxal and terror strikes. However, the government has downgraded the post from the DG rank to additional DG.

Another set of transfers are in the pipeline and will be out only after the budget session of the legislature concludes in April. Police commissioner D Sivanandhan and crime branch chief Rakesh Maria are due for promotions as DG and additional DG respectively.

The Times of India, Feb 27, 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cop dies of heart attack after convict kills self




Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: A 35-year-old murder convict allegedly committed suicide in the Nasik prison on Wednesday evening. In an unusual turn of events, a police constable posted outside the same cell for security, suffered a heart attack and died within just two hours of the suicide.

Jail authorities, though, maintained that the convict, Pankaj Kumar Balekiran Gaud alias Munna alias Raja, had fainted and passed away in a hospital. Sources said Raja, who had been convicted for murder, was mentally disturbed. “He used a blade and cut his wrist at around 6.45 pm on Wednesday. He also had injuries on his neck,’’ said a source. Police constable Devdhar Murlidhar Gosavi (45), who was posted outside Raja’s cell armed with a service rifle, suffered a heart attack and died at around 9.30 pm. Sources said that Gosavi may have feared a departmental inquiry into the
suidice which could have triggered the stroke.

Jail authorities, though, remained tight-lipped about the circumstances around both the incidents. Jail su
perintendent Swati Sathe, when contacted, said, “I don’t know anything about it.’’

According to sources, Raja was depressed and had tried to kill himself six months ago
as well. “At that time, a case of attempt to suicide was registered against him with the police,’’ said a police officer. However, no senior police official was willing to speak about Raja’s mysterious death.

“Raja complained of body ache and was shifted to a hospital where he breathed his last,’’ was all that a jail official offered.

Raja, a Mumbai resident, was sentenced for life by a Mumbai court a few years ago. Meanwhile, jail authorities have lodged a case of accidental death with the Nasik Road police station. “We have launched an inquiry into the matter and Raja’s body has been sent to Dhule for postmortem. We are waiting for the autopsy report,’’ said an officer from the police station.

It is worth noting that several inmates in Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail have, in the past, used blade to attack either the jail authorities or their rivals. Blade is provided to inmates for shaving, but on several occasions it is used to commit crimes.


Tagic Turn
Murder convict Pankaj Kumar Balekiran Gaud alias Munna alias Raja cut his wrist at around 6.45 pm on Wednesday

Jail authorities, though, said that he fainted and that he was taken to a hospital where he breathed his last

A case of accidental death has been registered with the Nasik police

Police constable Devdhar Gosavi, posted outside the cell, suffered a heart attack soon after the convict’s suicide

The constable may have feared an inquiry into the suicide which could have triggered the stroke

The Times of India, Feb 26, 2010

Defaulter MLA’s goons thrash loan recovery agents



Sumitra Deb Roy & Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Five recovery officers of the Sangli Sahakari Bank were beaten up with hockey and bamboo sticks allegedly by hired goons owing allegiance to BJP MLA Prakash Shendge on Thursday afternoon. Two bank officials sustained severe injuries and had to be rushed to the nearby Podar Medical College and Hospital at Worli.

The bank officials, armed with court orders, had gone to attach Shendge’s 1,200-
square-foot flat in Sukhada building on Pochkhanwala Road, Worli.

According to the CEO of Sangli Sahakari Bank, Vilas Patil, Shendge owes the bank a whopping Rs 25 crore, which has remained unpaid over the years. He had taken a loan of Rs 21 crore and the rest of the amount was the interest that had accumulated over the years, he said.

The bank has already attached three of Shendge’s properties over the past few months to recover the loan amount. “We have recovered
about Rs 15 crore of the amount. And we intended to recover the rest of the money from his Worli flat,” said Patil.

Two of the recovery agents, Vijay Sagre and M S Shinde, were severely hurt. They have sustained skull injuries, but both are stable, said the treating doctor from Podar Medical College. Both of them were discharged by evening.

The injured officers told their colleagues that as soon as they entered the premises of Sukhada building, they could sense that the crowd was hostile. The incident hap
pened despite the recovery officers being accompanied by police constables, said Patil.

Officials from the Worli police station said that they had arrested eight people for rioting and assault. The police confirmed that there were 70-80 men associ
ated with Shengde who had attacked the bank officials with bamboo and hockey sticks.

“A constable, S Vashirkar, was also injured and was taken to a local hospital for treatment,” said Bharat Worlikar, senior police inspector of the Worli police station. Meanwhile, a press note from Shendge said that he had deposits of Rs 2.80 crore in the bank and the matter is pending with the Supreme Court. He said the bank officials had visited his house without informing him.


The Times of India, Feb 26, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cops on Pune blast trail head to Jaipur



TERROR AFTERMATH

Trying To Trace Identity Card Found At German Bakery

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Security agencies probing the February 13 Pune blast have sent teams to Jaipur to search for a person whose photo identity card was found near the German Bakery. The document, said sources, was found a few days after the blast, which killed 16 and injured over 50.

“Teams have been sent to Jaipur but we are not sure if the address mentioned in the document really exists,’’ said a senior officer from the se
curity establishment. Investigators suspect that the photograph on the identity document could also be of someone else and it was dropped near the blast site deliberately to mislead the investigators. “But we are not taking any chances,’’ said an official.

Investigators were mainly relying on the scientific evidence gathered from the blast site, including the CCTV footage, mixture of chemicals used in the blast and the burnt mobile phone recovered from the spot. “We are busy record
ing the statements of people present at German Bakery at the time of blast and the reason for their presence there,’’ said the source.

The identity document, said sources, is a government issued one. The police are also trying to find out about the unclaimed items found near the German Bakery after the blast. It contained chappals, bags, food parcels etc. It is learnt that the security agency personnel have so far questioned suspects from SIMI, Indian Mujahideen (IM), Jai Vande Matram Kalyan Samiti and are also probing Abhinav Bharat members. Eleven members of the Abhinav Bharat were arrested for their alleged role in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast whose bomb content was similar to that of the German Bakery blast.

The Mumbai crime branch, which had first busted the Indian Mujahideen module in Maharashtra, also sent its team to Pune and various other districts in Maharashtra to “use its past experience’’ to detect the blast case. However, they too, are yet to make any breakthrough.

Meanwhile, the officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) were also making some enquiries in Pune and met senior Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) officials. The NIA is also doing a parallel investigation and there were talks about the case to be handed over to the NIA. However, no decision on this has been taken yet.


The Times of India, Feb 25, 2010

Cops quiz three in BARC scientist’s murder case


Mahadevan Iyer

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Investigators probing the murder of a 48-yearold scientist employed with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) suspect that the murder could be the fallout of a homosexual relationship. The police found liquor bottles and three packets of condoms at the official quarters of the deceased, Mahadevan Iyer. No arrest has been made yet.

Three persons who were close to Iyer are being questioned by the Gamdevi police and the crime branch.

A neighbour had opened Iyer’s house on February 22 using a duplicate key. Iyer’s body was found in a decomposed state with a string mark around the neck. The original keys to the flat are missing and the door was locked from outside.


Iyer, a mechanical engineer, was born and brought up in Vasai. He worked as a scientific officer on the Design Inter-Reactor project. He was single and used to stay alone at the quarters, Anand Bhavan, Breach Candy.

“We have found three packets of condoms, liquor bottles and photos of male models from Iyers’ quarters. There are a lot of DVDs of devotional songs and porn movies. We cannot rule out the possibility of a homosexual angle in this case,’’ said a senior police official. His bank pass book is missing, the officer added.

The police said they found fingerprints on a glass, but were verifying whether they were of some person other than Iyer. “We are yet to get the final autopsy report,’’ the officer said.

No blood stains or external injury was found on Iyer’s body. Iyer’s mother, who stays at Vasai, and a brother claimed his body. He was associated with the BARC for the past 20 years.


The Times of India, Feb 25, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cell found at site triggered blast

MOBILE TERROR: The bomb was activated by a call or an SMS, or a timer in the phone

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai/Pune: Investigators are certain that a mobile phone, found in a burnt and shattered condition at the site of the German Bakery blast in Pune, was the trigger for the February 13 terrorist attack that took 15 lives and injured 54 people.

A senior official involved in the investigation, who did not wish to be named, said the investigators had no doubt that the phone, which was recovered from the blast site and which does not appear to be of a Chinese make, was used by the terrorists.

The mangled mobile phone has been sent for forensic analysis, the official said. “The mobile was almost shattered, but we are trying to get some clues from it,’’ he said. An investigator said it appeared that no calls had been made, or SMSes sent, to the mobile phone for at least one week prior to the blast.

Senior investigators, who have been facing criticism for not making ground in the probe, have remained tight-lipped about the case after reportedly receiving instructions from the Centre to not speak on the issue.

While the senior security official
said investigators were sure the recovered phone was used to trigger the blast, they were still unsure about how the bomb was actually set off. Officials suspect that either a call was made to the phone, an SMS was sent or the phone’s alarm clock was set to deliver the current that resulted in the explosion. “We cannot say anything until we get the forensic report,’’ said an official.

A mobile phone was used as the trigger in the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast of 2007.

Seven state & central probe agencies yet to file reports
Mumbai/Pune: In 2007,a mobile phone was used as the trigger in the Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad. In that blast, a call was made to the mobile connected to the bomb and, as soon as it rang, the bomb exploded. Mobiles were also suspected to have been used in the 2008 Agartala blasts.

“It’s early to say whether the mobile was used as a clock or whether the method used in Hyderabad was adopted in this blast as well,’’ an official said. An earlier forensic report has already stated the bomb contained a mix of RDX, ammonium nitrate and petroleum hydrocarbon oil, a combination that had been detected
in bombs exploded in the Malegaon blasts and the Mumbai train blasts.

Forensic and bomb detection experts from seven state and central agencies are independently examining the samples collected from the blast site to uncover details about the trigger mechanism and quantum of explosives. None of these agencies, including the NSG, have furnished their reports as yet. Pune police chief Satya Pal Singh said the experts need time to complete their experiments and analyses.

According to Singh, apart from the men from the NSG’s National Bomb Detection Centre, experts from the State Forensic Science Laboratory, the Indian Army, the CRPF unit at Talegaon near Pune, the CBI’s Central FSL, the AP FSL and the Ahmedabad FSL have examined the blast site.
Singh said, “What has emerged through the ATS briefing is the forensic lab at Hyderabad has made some good progress.’’ Meanwhile, Muslim leaders met ATS chief K P Raghuvanshi and requested him not to arrest innocent Muslims. Raghuvanshi assured them of an impartial probe.

Hindu outfit issues denial
Pune:
Strongly objecting to media reports that the authorities had not ruled out Abhinav Bharat (AB) as a suspect in the Pune blast case, AB president Himani Savarkar on Tuesday said investigating agencies were planting “baseless stories’’ to hide their failure to trace the terrorists. “AB is not a terrorist outfit. The Maharashtra ATS has not been able to prove its involvement even in the Malegaon blasts. Linking AB with the Pune blast is highly irresponsible and objectionable,’’ she said. AGENCIES
—Inputs from Vishwas Kothari


The Times of India, Feb 24, 2010

BARC scientist found murdered

Cops Earlier Suspected Suicide

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: A 48-year-old scientist employed with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) was found dead in his official quarters late on Monday. Initially, the police suspected it to be a case of suicide but later, they registered it as a murder.

The body of the mechanical engineer, Mahadevan
Iyer, who originally belonged to Tamil Nadu, was found by one of his neighbours. Iyer was single and used to stay alone at the quarters, Anand Bhavan near Breach Candy. “We suspect that it is an insider’s job as the original keys to the flat are missing and the door was locked from outside,’’ said DCP Sanjay Mohite.

Joint commissioner of police (law and order) Himanshu Roy said, “Around 11 pm on Monday, one of the neighbours opened the first-floot flat with a duplicate key as he had not seen Iyer for two days. He found Iyer lying on the bed with a string around his neck.’’ Roy added that the culprit might have hit Iyer on his head with a blunt object, causing brain haemorrhage.

Iyer’s mother, who stays at Vasai, and a brother, who works as a school principal in Yeola, claimed his body. He has two other brothers who work in Dubai. “Iyer has been associated with BARC for the last 20 years. At the time of his death, he worked as a scientific officer on Design Inter-Reactor project,’’ said an officer.

“Iyer did not have a cellphone and was last seen on the night of February 20 after he returned home. Seeing two days’ newspapers lying at his door, his neighbour started enquiring about him. He tried calling Iyer’s residence number, but there was no response. He later used a duplicate key and opened the door,’’ said an officer. “We have got some clues and will crack the case soon,’’ said Roy. No blood stain or external injury was found on Iyer’s body.

The Times of India, Feb 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

‘I am grateful to hosp staff for saving my life’



Asif Khan

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: JJ shootout victim Asif Khan, who m i r a c u - lously escaped an attack on his life on February 13, had to run from Null Bazaar to JJ Hospital. Khan’s family friends said that he had thrown a chair at the attacker, run from there and reached the hospital on a friend’s motorbike. One of the attackers, said sources, had covered his face with a handkerchief.


Khan (46), a resident of Princess Building near JJ Hospital, was sitting with his friends near Null Bazaar on February 13 when unidentified assailants opened fire on them. While Khan managed to escape, two of his friends, Irfan Qureishi and Shakeel Modak, were killed. Modak was a close friend of MLC Bhai Jagtap.

Speaking after the attack, Khan said, “I am thankful to
the doctors, nurses and the hospital staff for saving my life.’’ Khan who found it difficult to speak, refused to say anything about the attackers. A bullet had pierced the area above Khan’s heart and the splinters had spread in the body. He will again be operated on Tuesday.

A family friend said that Khan had gone to Null Bazaar to collect railway tickets for his in-laws and ended up sitting there for some time. “Two persons came on a motorbike and said salam walekum. A per
son whose face was covered, opened fire on Khan. He cannot recall whether the attacker was the same person who came on a bike,’’ said a family friend.

A bleeding Khan ran for his life to the hospital after he heard gunshots from behind.Sources close to Khan said that this could be the handiwork of someone whose political career was damaged in south Mumbai because of Khan.

Khan has given a clean chit to his younger brother Arif who was questioned.

The Times of India, Feb 23, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

Murdered lawyer had taken up cases of 120 terror accused


Slain advocate Shahid Azmi

Mateen Hafeez & Kartikeya I TNN

Mumbai: Murdered advocate Shahid Azmi was handling cases of more than 120 suspects who were allegedly involved in sensitive terror-related cases across the country. His alleged killers, members of the Bharat Nepali gang, were arrested last week.

The 32-year-old slain lawyer was appointed general secretary of Jamiat-ul-Ulema’s (Hind) legal cell after he showed keen interest in taking up the cases of such suspects. At the time of his death on February 11, Shahid was handling several sensitive cases like the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai. “Shahid believed that Faheem Ansari, one of the two Indians caught in this case, was innocent. He would hardly charge any fee from his family,’’ said Gulzar Azmi, general secretary of Jamiat who would coordinate with Shahid about the cases the Jamiat was fighting for Muslim suspects.


Shahid had also taken up the cases of around 64 suspected operatives of the outlawed outfit, Indian Mujahideen (IM). “The police say these youths were involved in the 2008 Ahmedabad bomb blast case, Surat terror case, Jaipur blast, Delhi blast, Karnataka blast and Kerala blast.
While Shahid was fighting their cases in Maharashtra, he helped lawyers in other states fight the IM’s cases,’’ added Gulzar, whose two sons were picked up in 2006 by the crime branch and later acquitted after Azmi represented them.

Shahid found himself in the police net when he was just 15. He was arrested for allegedly conspiring to kill the former J&K chief minister Farooque Abdullah in mid-90s. He was kept in Tihar jail for five years where he shared his cell with Masood Azhar, the commander in-chief

of the Pak-based outfit, Jaishe-Mohammed. The Indian Airlines plane IC-814 was hijacked for Azhar’s release.

Shahid, after taking up the IM cases, had filed an application in the Gujarat high court pleading that the two cases (Ahmedabad and Surat terror strike) be clubbed to save time for the trial since
in both cases, the suspects were almost the same. “Everyone was fond of him since he would take up cases which other lawyers refused,’’ said Gulzar Azmi.

In Maharashtra, he was looking after around 39 accused caught for their alleged role in connection with the 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts, 7/11 train bombings case and the Aurangabad arms haul case. “Shahid had challenged the application of the stringent law, Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act in these cases. He filed a petition before the Supreme Court pleading to drop the stringent law from these cases,’’ said one of his friends.

Shahid had taken up the cases of five suspects who had been awarded death for the 2001 attack on the American Centre in Kolkata. While the Kolkata HC converted the death penalty of three convicts to life imprisonment, two were acquitted. “It was difficult for Shahid to travel to different parts of the country, but he never refused to take up a case,’’ said a Jamiat member.


In the Mulund train blast, Ghatkopar blast, Mumbai Central and Vile Parle blast, Azmi was representing six accused. A suspected Pak agent, Shafi Qamar Afghani, caught under the Official Secrets Act, was one of Shahid’s clients in Mumbai. In Gulbarga, he was representing Mumbai resident Abdur Rehman caught in a terror-related case. However, Shahid lost the case of Fahmeeda Sayyed, an accused in the 2003 Gateway and Zaveri Bazar bomb blasts.

The Times of India, Feb 22, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Teams monitor calls made before blast


PUNE CARNAGE

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Several security agencies are going through records of some “suspicious’’ phone calls made from Pakistan, Bangladesh and England in the run-up to the Pune blast; in fact they are monitoring the calls at every level before zeroing in on a suspect.

The February 14 Pune blast left 11 dead and more than 40 injured.


According to officials, at least three agencies in Maharashtra, the Intelligence Bureau and even the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) are keeping a watch on the calls. “A suspicious call was intercepted during that time but it turned out to be a routine call. Investigators did not get anything out of it,’’ said a security agency official.

When asked about the reason behind monitoring calls from and to England,
an official said, “We don’t know but our bosses have asked us to do so. We compile the record and submit it to our seniors.’’

In a recent meeting, the state police and intelligence agencies officials exchanged the numbers they had checked and tried to find out if the agencies had monitored any common number. A day before the German Bakery blast, several calls were made to Pakistan from Pune numbers, but even there, the investigators did not make a breakthrough.

A senior anti-terrorism squad (ATS) official said, “We are on the right track and are questioning the suspects. No one has yet been arrested but we hope to make a headway soon. We don’t want to jump to the conclusion at an early stage.’’

While a major section of the investigators are focusing on the suspected role of
Indian Mujahideen (IM) and SIMI, they are paying little attention to the Pune-based Abhinav Bharat, 11 members of which were held responsible for the 2008 Malegaon blast, a source said. In the blast, a combination of RDX and ammonium nitrate was used and the bomb makers, Ramji Kalangsara and Sandeep Dange, are still untraceable. The same cocktail was used for the Pune blast.

The Times of India, Feb 20, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Science grad questioned

FALSE ALARM: A bomb squad officer attends to a hoax call on Thursday in Pune

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: A 33-year-old Govandi resident,who is a science graduate from Somaiya College, is among at least a dozen Mumbaikars being questioned by security agencies in connection with the Pune blast.

Investigators alleged that the science graduate is a trained Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) member. The man had been arrested in 2006 for alleged links with the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi) had been lying low after his release from jail.

Security agencies have summoned around a dozen people for questioning and are taking down the details of their whereabouts before and
after the German Bakery bombing. Questioning is on in full swing, but by Thursday investigators were yet to establish the role of any specific organisation. Those being questioned include at least four people who were earlier arrested for alleged links with Simi.

The Govandi suspect allegedly underwent terror training in Pakistan in September 2003.“This suspect had been lying low and we are interested in him. He is an associate of absconding Indian Mujahideen operative Riyaz Shah alias Riayz Bhatkal,’’ said an officer.

“We are not taking any chances. Those who are in our records are being summoned for interrogation,’’ said the officer. Sources alleged that the Govandi suspect and an accused behind bars in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case were sent to Pakistan for arms training by the LeT via Dubai.

The Times of India, Feb 19, 2010

IM never before used a remote

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: If a remote-controlled device was used to trigger the Pune blast and the involvement of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) is true, then it would mark a huge change in the IM’s methods. It would be the first time the group has used a remote-controlled device.

The IM is known for using timers in bombs. Arrested operatives of the outlawed outfit had earlier told police that they preferred timers as it gave them time to leave the scene. A security agency official said a remote could mean that the IM is changing its method and the German Bakery blast could have been a trial. “We cannot rule out any possiblity,’’ he said.

In most bomb blasts in the state—2006 Malegaon blasts, 11/7 train blasts, 2008 Male
gaon blast, Mulund blast, Ghatkopar blast and so on—timers were used. “The target could be bigger. The Pune blast could be a trial by terror outfits,’’ the source added. “Until the suspects are caught, it’s too difficult to say anything about their plan.’’

The source said, “Moreover, shrapnel, nuts and bolts were not used in the Pune blast, which indicates attention paid to the safety of a remote control operator. Shrapnel, nuts and bolts would have injured many more people,’’ said the source.

In the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid bomb blast, the suspects had used a mobile phone to exlode the bomb. A mobile phone device was fitted into the bomb and a call was made to that number. As soon as the mobile rang, current was circulated and the bomb exploded.

The Times of India, Feb 19,2010

Delhi suspect in focus

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai/New Delhi: A suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorist, who was arrested on February 1 after absconding for over 15 months, is expected to be brought to Maharashtra from Delhi so that security agencies can probe his reported links with IM modules.

In a separate development, a Mumbai Crime Branch team has gone to Delhi interrogate the same suspected IM member, Shahzad Ahmed. The crime branch team reportedly has Shahzad’s Interrogation Report (IR) in which he has spoken about the terrorist outfit’s sleeper cell in Pune.

“We are not officially probing the Pune blast case, but are
looking for those who are wanted in our case. Their arrest may help solve other cases too,’’ a crime branch officer said. The Crime Branch had earlier arrested 21 suspected IM members, including Mansoor Peerbhoy, a software engineer. An officer said at least six IM suspects, including Mohsin Choudhary of Pune, Niyaz Ahmed of Mumbai and Abu Rasheed of Mangalore, are absconding. “We are searching for them,’’ said the officer.

A Delhi court on Thursday remanded Ahmed to seven days in police custody in a fresh case relating to the Delhi blasts of September 13, 2008. Police sources said that Ahmed would be taken to Maharashtra to be quizzed about his
links to IM modules suspected to have caused the Pune blast. The Delhi police produced Ahmed in court after he completed his earlier 12 days of remand. He will be in custody till February 25. He is also to be interrogated with regard to the whereabouts of 14 absconding IM members for their alleged roles in the Delhi blasts. Ahmed absconded with Junaid following an encounter with police at Batla House in south Delhi on September 19, 2008.

The Mumbai Crime Branch team that went to Delhi also visited Kondhwa, Pune, from where two alleged IM operatives were caught two years ago. “We have activated our informers,’’ said an officer.
—With inputs from agencies

The Times of India, Feb 19, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sudden drop in IM chatter 2 weeks ago

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Pune: Investigating agencies have got one of the surest indications till date of the diabolical German Bakery plot being finalised at least a fortnight before it was executed with such devastating effect. These agencies have now come to know that the internet chatter among Indian Mujahideen operatives ceased totally about a fortnight before last Saturday.

The IM operatives are known to relay coded messages via chat sites as an established tool of communication. This chatter stopped totally, leading investigating agencies to believe that the blast was planned well in advance. “The sudden stop of chatter had led us to suspect that they might be on to something big,’’ a senior security agency official told TOI. “Unfortunately, we were proved right,’’ he added.


Sleuths focus on Riyaz Bhatkal faction

Pune: Security agencies have for some time tracked the internet to track Indian Mujahideen communications. “But the IM now also uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to communicate and that is more difficult to intercept,’’ an official said, adding that IM fugitives never used mobile phones or land-line numbers to keep in touch with each other. “They are known for their technological expertise and we are still grappling with the problem,’’ he said. The IM is also known to use internet portals to make calls across the border. “Serviceproviders abroad connect the call to the recepient,’’ he said.

Investigating agencies strongly suspect the Riyaz Bhatkal faction to have masterminded the blast, al
though anti-terrorism squad teams are yet to make any breakthrough in the German Bakery blast, admit officials. “We have the e-mail addresses of some of the suspects and have been monitoring them. But IM operatives are known to frequently change their e-mail addresses to avoid surveillance,’’ a police official added. The National Technology Research Organisation (NTRO), which also monitors cyber crime, is also working on this aspect.

The IM, informed investigators said, had three factions. The Mumbai one is led by Sadiq Shaikh and Riyaz Bhatkal looks after operations in the southern states. The northern regions used to be handled by Aatif Ameen before he was killed in the 2008 Delhi Batla House encounter. Officials said no one in particular was heading the group right now. Investigators are also probing the role of IM fugitive Aariz Khan alias Junaid, a resident of Azamgarh. “Bhatkal was working in close tandem with the Pune module busted in 2008 by the Mumbai Crime Branch,’’ an official said. Another IM member, Shahzad Ahmed, arrested in Delhi recently, has disclosed information about sleeper cells in Pune. “Ahmed is a planter. His information on the sleeper cells is being worked on,’’ the official added.

The Times of India, Feb 16, 2010

Kondhwa is under the scanner again



LEAVING THE PAST BEHIND: The apartment used by IM suspect M Peerbhoy has a new tenant

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Pune: Kondhwa is again in the news—and once more, for the wrong reasons—after the growing suspicion of the Indian Mujahideen’s involvement in the German Bakery blast.
The area was under the scanner of intelligence agencies after the arrest of four IM operatives, but the news of six more people being picked up for questioning in connection with Saturday’s explosion has trained the spotlight on this 18 sq-km a second time.


And, once again, residents of the area are squirming under the spotlight. One of them happens to be Munawwar Peerbhoy, who is the chairman of Azam Campus, a huge belt that has 29 educational institutes. He also happens to be the uncle of Mansoor Peerbhoy, one of the key suspected IM players, now in police custody.

Muslims of this area had started taking an interest in education after an awareness campaign was initiated by Munawwar and his friends, he said. “We are trying to involve more
and more Muslims in studies. You will see many of the boys going in for higher education. The campus is doing all it can to improve their educational status,’’ Peerbhoy added.

But it will take a lot of hard work. Dropouts from higher secondary education remains a huge problem for Kondhwa. Even if they do study till Std XII, they prefer to work in a departmental store or some shop. “We want them to study further but their financial situation does not allow them to do so,’’ a Kondhwa old-timer said. The locality has two Urdu schools, a private one and another run by the Pune civic body.

But it is private help—or self-help as Kondhwa residents prefer to call it —that is proving to be a greater succour. Educationist and Maharashtra Cosmopolitan Education Society chairman P A Inamdar has announced free education and healthcare facilities for families of imams of Pune mosques. The society already runs around 29 colleges in Pune.

Kondhwa, which sees many students from other parts of the countries as well as outside taking up residence there because of the low rents, has its share of incongruities. The area, which is under the scanner for some residents’ IM links, is now a Shiv Sena stronghold. The party sends corporators to the PMC.

But Kondhwa is trying to move forward. Mansoor’s flat in Ashoka Mews, sealed after his arrest, now has a new tenant. “Mansoor’s family left this complex after his arrest,’’ Ashoka Mews Society member, B Thorat, said.


The Times of India, Feb 16, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Three outfits, two in India and one in Bangladesh, are under the intelligence scanner for their activities in western India

Trail of Terror

INDIAN MUJAHIDEEN
AREAS OF INFLUENCE
New Delhi, Gujarat, Pune & Mumbai STRENGTH | 100


SIGNATURE STYLE
Uses IEDs, RDX. Usually claims responsibility for blasts. Most members are tech-savvy but they have also landed in trouble very often with cyber sleuths


KEY PLAYERS
Riyaz Bhatkal: From Bhatkal, Karnataka, but has spent much time in Kurla, Mumbai. Sent 6 men to Pakistan for terror training and is absconding; cops suspect he is still in India
Amir Raza: A Pakistani who brought RDX into India in 2008 for IM-engineered blasts. Now probably back in Pakistan
Abdul Hakeem: FromUP; allegedly a key conspirator in the 2008 Delhi blasts. Now behind bars. Was caught after cops posed as IM men and chatted with him on the net.
Mansoor Peerbhoy: Hugely tech-savvy. Worked with a software giant: annual salary Rs 19 L. Drafted IM’s e-mails claiming responsibility for blasts. In Arthur Road Jail
Sadiq Shaikh: Arrested in ’08 from Trombay and accused of planting bombs in Mumbai train in July ’06. Discharged by the court but faces charges of conspiracy. stole cars used for planting bombs in Ahmedabad and Surat
Fazal Usmani: Arrested for stealing cars for Gujarat blasts. Was the first person to be arrested in the case and his interrogation helped cops in unravel the case
Mohammed Atif: Killed in Batla House encounter in Delhi

DECCAN MUJAHIDEEN

SIGNATURE STYLE
Again, like IM, is known to send e-mails & claim responsiblity for terror strikes; it is considered to be a splinter of the Pakbased Lashkar-e-Taiba


KEY PLAYERS
Indian agencies are yet to identify the names of the commanders of this module; is supposed to be a splinter of the Pak-based LeT but is now trying to establish its own identity



JAMAAT’UL MUJAHIDEEN BANGLADESH

SIGNATURE STYLE
Known for small-scale strikes using low-intensity explosives across large number of sites

KEY PLAYERS
Sabir Qazi: Said to be JM founder. Arrested and released in Bangladesh
Moosa: In Bangladesh but heads the Indian operation
Jaleel: alias Ravi deals in narcotics. Seenas the man who planned the cross-over to India via Sri Lankan waters


PAST TERROR CASES
Delhi, Surat and Ahmedabad blasts. Mumbai Crime Branch said IM was involved even in the July 2006 Mumbai train bombings but ATS gave it clean chit

AREAS OF INFLUENCE
Is headquartered in Karachi and Lahore in Pakistan

STRENGTH | 200


PAST TERROR CASES
The organisation claimed responsibility for the 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai but another threat to blow up the Delhi airport 2 days after 26/11, which intelligence agencies took very seriously, did not materialise. Intelligence reports blame the Deccan Mujahideen for a few terror strikes in Bangladesh and Karachi as well


AREAS OF INFLUENCE
B’desh and western and southern coastline of India

STRENGTH |
Runs into several thousands in Bangladesh. Intelligence agencies say it has about 30 cadres across cities along the western and southern coast (Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai)

PAST TERROR CASES
The outfit planted 500 bombs at 300 locations across Bangladedesh in August ‘05 within a span of an-hour-and-half. All the bombs went off with only two casualties: four MUJB were hanged

STRIKING AT WILL? IM emerges key suspect in Pune blast

The Times of India (Pune) February 15, 2010

‘System to gather info from local populace needed’


An ATS official conducts investigations near the blast site on Saturday night

C Unnikrishnan & Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Pune: The Pune bomb blast has again brought into focus the need for better intelligence-gathering at the grassroots level besides the urgency to get the potential victims, individuals and private-owned establishments to play a more significant role in security issues.

The Ram Pradhan Committee, probing into the lapses that led to the 26/11 terror attack, has harped on better coordination between private establishments and law-enforcing agencies while handling security issues but officials regret that nothing has happened so far on this front.

Several security experts whom TOI spoke to said that it was time to develop a system that would infiltrate into the local populace and gather information to help bust terror modules. Intelligence agencies also needed to think a step ahead of terror modules, rather than reacting to terror strikes, they added. “We need to be more proactive rather than merely reacting to these strikes. Otherwise, we will only go on beefing up security after every terror attack,” a former intelligence official said.

“We should be able to nip conspiracies when they are being planned. That is the challenge,” a security expert said.

A lot of brainstorming happened after the 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai among security establishments on ways of procuring intelligence that would scuttle terror plans at the initial stage. The Intelligence Bureau, say officials, has begun
working towards expanding contacts that will help them get to know of terror modules at the conspiracy stage, but these officials admit a lot more needs to be done.

Many senior officials also have another issue. “So much of investment has been made in procuring sophisticated weapons and creating special forces. But why is so little interest shown in creating a dedicated intelligence wing?” another former intelligence official said.

Another problem, say officials, is the dipping prestige of the intelligence units of all the forces. “Many officials do not want to join the intelligence wings as they say there is no prestige or incentive attached to them. If this is not changed soon, we will have only the dregs of the force serving in this all-important section barring a few exceptional officers who like to serve in the intelligence wings,” a senior intelligence official said.

Another issue that bothers intelligence officials is the lack of coordination between different state police and central agencies when it comes to terrorism. “Look at how the US did a major overhaul of its internal security in 46 days after the 9/11 attack. The 24-hour state fusion centres continuously update state police and local security agencies with intelligence inputs from the National Counter-Terrorist Centre,” an official said.

Former IB chief V N Deshmukh said that officers in the security establishments were reluctant to go out on the field and this resulted in intelligence failure. “The government is blamed when a terror attack happens,’’ he added.


The Times of India (Pune) February 15, 2010

ATS questions six in connection with blast

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Pune: Two anti-terrorism squad (ATS) teams questioned at least six persons suspected of having direct or indirect links with Saturday’s bomb blast that left nine persons dead and 60 injured. The suspects were already under the scanner of the ATS since the arrest of Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives in 2008 by the Mumbai police. “We are examining the involvement of various terrorist outfits. However, IM tops our list,’’ said a police officer.

An Improvised Explosive Device exploded had around 7.30 pm at German Bakery when a waiter attempted to open it. According to sources, the ATS rounded up the suspects in Kondhwa, an area with a large Muslim population, and their interrogation was going on at the time of going to press. Kondhwa had come under the scanner after five IM members were arrested from this area in connection with a series of bomb blasts that rocked Gujarat, Delhi and Bangalore. Those being questioned were either sympathisers of the ar
rested IM operatives or their close aides. Sources said that one of the persons being questioned was identified as Farooque. However, the ATS refused to corroborate this. “Our investigation is on and we cannot comment at this juncture,” said ATS chief Krish Pal Raghuvanshi. It is learnt that several people, already scanned earlier after various terror strikes and terror-related cases, were also in the police list.

“We are trying to establish whether they played a role in providing any support to the perpetrators of the blast. It
is too early to arrive at any conclusion. IM is the prime suspect since they have been active in Pune and a local module may have carried out the blast,” a senior official said. ATS officials were also upset about the free access granted to one and all to the blast site. “The blast site should have been cordoned off immediately after the blast,” an official said. The ATS is now examining the interrogation reports of all the arrested IM operatives and trying to find out about the sleeper cells which were mentioned by the arrested accused.

The Times of India (Pune) February 15, 2010

Tests hint at RDX use; 6 quizzed

Asseem Shaikh, Sarang Dastane, Prasad Kulkarni & Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Pune: Investigating agencies looking into Saturday’s blast are veering round the idea that the strike could have been plotted by an Indian Mujahideen (IM) module. No substantive lead, however, has emerged that can rule out the role of other terror agencies, say officials.

The investigating agencies on Sunday were scrambling for clues that could lead them to the mastermind behind the deadly blast that killed nine people and injured 60 others.

The IM angle was being ac
tively explored because members of the terror outfit, operating out of Pune, have been suspected in the series of blats in 2008 in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Delhi. Besides, the outfit, which has educated youth among its key members, is known to change its modus operandi each time it executes its terror plans.

However, neither the investigating agencies nor Union home minister P Chidambaram were willing to suggest that IM could be behind the Pune blast. Asked pointedly whether the blast could have been carried out by the IM, Chidambaram said, “I am not ruling out any
thing and not ruling in anything.”

Chidambaram refused to pin the blame for the blast on an intelligence failure. “It was an insidious attack, planting a bomb at a soft target establishment,” he said.

Intelligence agencies working on the case felt that the likelihood of a local person in the blast appeared remote. “Most pointers to the blast suggest that it is the handiwork of terror elements from outside the city,” an intelligence official said.

Two anti-terrorism squad (ATS) teams questioned at least six persons suspected of having direct or indirect links with
the blast. According to sources, the ATS rounded up the suspects at Kondhwa, a senior police officer said.

Sources with the army’s bomb disposal company have hinted at the possibility of RDX having been used in the blast. “Our first local tests are hinting at the presence of RDX. We have taken samples after the blasts and carried out tests on them. These tests confirmed RDX — plastic RDX to be precise. It was a blast triggered off by an improvised explosive device (IED),” the sources told TOI.

‘No leads yet in blast probe’
Vishwas Kothari | TNN
Pune:
A day after the IED blast ripped through the German Bakery in Koregaon Park here on Saturday, killing nine people and injuring 60 others, Pune police chief Satya Pal Singh had little to offer in terms of either vital leads or detention of suspects for interrogation. The police have yet to confirm whether RDX or any other explosive materials were used in the blast.

“Hopefully, by Monday, we will get the forensic report about the explosive used. We will reveal the details then,” Singh told reporters on Sunday evening, during his first briefing as an official spokesman for the blast probe, after Union home minister P Chidambaram spoke to the media earlier in the morning. He said, “Nobody has been detained yet in connection with the incident.”

Singh maintained that people should not panic and must show faith in the government machinery, the police and all other government agencies working on this case. “We are sure to crack the case soon. Police investigators working on the case are experienced and will give it their best.”

Singh said, “A total of nine people, including two foreigners, were killed in the blast, while the number of injured victims has gone up to 60, from the initial 57 that we had information about. Among the injured, 19 people have been, so far, discharged from the hospital after treatment, while 41 remain under treatment.”


While the police identified six of the nine dead people last night, the identity of the remaining three victims was established as Nadia Macerini (34), an Italian national, who was based at the Osho International Meditation Centre (better known as the Osho Ashram); Gokul Nepali, who was working as a waiter at the German Bakery; and Saeed Abdul Khani, an Iranian student, who was studying at the Symbiosis college.

Referring to the incident, Singh said, “The blast occurred exactly at 6.52 pm in the German Bakery and was triggered by an IED kept in a blue-and-red coloured haversack, typically used by students. The bag was kept inside the bakery and was seen by some individuals. However, the IED went off before things could be checked.”

Asked why the German Bakery was not provided security in the wake of the intelligence inputs to the effect that Pune was a terror target, Singh said, “Every place cannot be provided security.” He said the police had taken sufficient steps to sensitise people in the city about security concerns. “We had issued necessary guidelines to people at all the places seen as potential terror targets,” he said.

Singh avoided getting into the specifics of any pointed query relating to the possibility of the involvement of terror outfits, such as the Indian Mujahideen, in the incident. “We will come out with details as and when the ongoing investigation makes a progress,” he maintained.


THE TOLL

• Number of dead victims: 9 (Seven Indians and two foreigners)

• Number of injured victims: 60 (46 men and 14 women)

• Injured victims discharged after treatment: 19 (14 men and 5 women)

• Victims under treatment at hospital:
41

• Injured foreigner victims: 12 (5 from Iran, 2 each from Sudan and Nepal, 1 each from Yemen, Germany and Taiwan)


THE DEAD
• Ankit Dhar (24) r/o Kolkata

• Anandi Dhar (19) r/o Kolkata

• Vineeta Gadani (22) r/o Mumbai

• T Sundari (22) r/o Bangalore

• Shilpa Goenka (23) r/o Kolkata

• Shankar Pansare (40) r/o Velha in Pune district

• Nadia Macerini (34), Italian national based at Osho Ashram

• Gokul Nepali, waiter at German Bakery

• Saeed Abdul Khani, Iranian national studying at Symbiosis college
(Source: Pune Police Commissioner’s briefing)

City police commissioner Satya Pal Singh addresses the media on Saturday

The Times of India (Pune) February 15, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gang war erupts in Bhendi Bazaar



THE SPOT OF THE CRIME: The incident occurred outside Phool Gali mosque near Null Bazaar on Friday night.

MLC Aide Among 2 Killed, One Of The Three Injured Is Ex-MCOCA Detainee

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Two persons, including a close aide of MLC Bhai Jagtap, were shot dead near Bhendi Bazaar on Saturday night. A former Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) detainee and two others were injured in the firing by unidentified assailants. Though the motive was yet to be ascertained, the police said it was a case of gang war.

The deceased have been identified as Shakeel Modak (42) and Irfan Qureishi (50), while the injured are former MCOCA detainee Asif Khan alias Asif Dadhi (40) and daily wage labourer Gangubai. The third wounded is yet to be identified.

The incident occurred
around 9 pm outside Phool Gali mosque near Null Bazaar. According to residents of the area, the victims were sitting and chatting in the lane when at least three persons rode in on motorcycles and shot at them.

The people of the area
said the target could have been Asif Dadhi, who sustained a bullet injury in his arm. He has been admitted to the ICU of JJ Hospital.

“The victims were sitting on chairs near the mosque and talking among themselves. All of a sudden, three
to four men appeared on two motorcycles and fired at them,’’ said a resident of the area. “Immediately, the assailants fled the spot and nobody even dared to catch them.’’
Modak, a close friend of MLC Bhai Jagtap, owned a
fishing trawler at the Gateway of India and a boat that ferries people between Ferry Wharf and Uran. Qureishi worked in his father in-law’s printing press, Print Red, at Pragati Industrial Estate in Lower Parel. Gangubai, said locals, worked at a bamboo basket-making unit.

A resident of Princess building at JJ Junction, Asif Dadhi, who now runs a garment shop, was arrested by the crime branch in 1999 under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act
(MCOCA) and again in
2001 for another offence. In the first case, Dadhi was acquitted by the court and in the second case, he was d i s ch a r g e d . Dadhi worked for the Congress in the last Lok Sabha elections. In fact, a controversy erupted when his photographs with a Congress minister were shown on television. The minister was later given a clean chit by the state government.

TRACKING VIOLENCE


Nagpada shooting
JULY 29, 2009: Gambling club owner Chhota Shakeel aide Zahid Hassan Mir alias Chhote Miya, and his nephew, Arshad Sayyed, are shot dead by two unidentified assailants near Alfred cinema, Nagpada.


Vengeance killing?
APRIL 4, 2009: Irfan Hasan Khan alias Chindi (34), an informant of slain encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar, is stabbed to death by a gang of four robbers at Surti Mohalla in south Mumbai. Shaikh S Moinuddin, Irfan Abdul Shaikh and Yusuf Mustaq Khan are arrested. Probe suggests that Irfan was killed as he had tipped off the Thane cops, which led to the arrest of some of the gang members.

Asif Dadhi has been admitted to the ICU in JJ Hospital



The Times of India, February 14, 2010

Gang war erupts in Bhendi Bazaar


THE SPOT OF THE CRIME: The incident occurred outside Phool Gali mosque near Null Bazaar on Friday night.


MLC Aide Among 2 Killed, One Of The Three Injured Is Ex-MCOCA Detainee

Mateen Hafeez I TNN


Mumbai: Two persons, including a close aide of MLC Bhai Jagtap, were shot dead near Bhendi Bazaar on Saturday night. A former Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) detainee and two others were injured in the firing by unidentified assailants. Though the motive was yet to be ascertained, the police said it was a case of gang war.
The deceased have been identified as Shakeel Modak (42) and Irfan Qureishi (50), while the injured are former MCOCA detainee Asif Khan alias Asif Dadhi (40) and daily wage labourer Gangubai. The third wounded is yet to be identified.
The incident occurred
around 9 pm outside Phool Gali mosque near Null Bazaar. According to residents of the area, the victims were sitting and chatting in the lane when at least three persons rode in on motorcycles and shot at them.
The people of the area
said the target could have been Asif Dadhi, who sustained a bullet injury in his arm. He has been admitted to the ICU of JJ Hospital.
“The victims were sitting on chairs near the mosque and talking among themselves. All of a sudden, three
to four men appeared
on two motorcycles and fired at them,’’ said a resident of the area. “Immediately, the assailants fled the spot and nobody even dared to catch them.’’
Modak, a close friend of MLC Bhai Jagtap, owned a
fishing trawler at the Gateway of India and a boat that ferries people between Ferry Wharf and Uran. Qureishi worked in his father in-law’s printing press, Print Red, at Pragati Industrial Estate in Lower Parel. Gangubai, said locals, worked at a bamboo basket-making unit.
A resident of Princess building at JJ Junction, Asif Dadhi, who now runs a garment shop, was arrested by the crime branch in 1999 under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act
(MCOCA) and again in
2001 for another offence. In the first case, Dadhi was acquitted by the court and in the second case, he was d i s ch a r g e d . Dadhi worked for the Congress in the last Lok
Sabha elections. In fact, a controversy erupted when his photographs with a Congress minister were shown on television. The minister was later given a clean chit by the state government.

TRACKING VIOLENCE

Nagpada shooting JULY 29, 2009: Gambling club owner Chhota Shakeel aide Zahid Hassan Mir alias Chhote Miya, and his nephew, Arshad Sayyed, are shot dead by two unidentified assailants near Alfred cinema, Nagpada.

Vengeance killing? APRIL 4, 2009: Irfan Hasan Khan alias Chindi (34), an informant of slain encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar, is stabbed to death by a gang of four robbers at Surti Mohalla in south Mumbai. Shaikh S Moinuddin, Irfan Abdul Shaikh and Yusuf Mustaq Khan are arrested. Probe suggests that Irfan was killed as he had tipped off the Thane cops, which led to the arrest of some of the gang members.







The Times of India, February 14, 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010

‘He would often waive his legal fees’


FINAL JOURNEY: Thousands of mourners wearing black armbands attended the funeral of Azmi on Friday

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: There was a time in his life when Shahid Azmi who was known to take up cases of terror-related suspects wanted to be a journalist. However, during his five-year custody in Delhi’s Tihar jail when he was charged for—and later acquitted—of plotting to kill kill Jammu and Kashmir’s political leader Dr Farooq Abdullah, he decided to study law.

It was a life-changing decision. “I want to prove that all Muslims are not terrorists. I want to help the poor section of the society and remove the terrorist label from my community,’’ he had told TOI. In the interview, he recalled the day he was arrested. “The day the police came to my house for the first time, I was preparing for my SSC exams. I passed the exam with a first class while in jail. I did my BA and enrolled for LLB from Tihar Jail itself.’’

During the span of his career, Azmi represented over 110 accused in various terror-related cases across
the country. Hailing from a middleclass family, Azmi would often waive his fees. “It’s difficult to get a generous lawyer like him. He was different from the others. Azmi had been representing suspects in the 26/11 terror strike, 7/11 train bombing case, Indian Mujahideen case, 2006 Malegaon bomb blast case, etc. He would study each case thoroughly before representing the accused,’’ said Gulzar Azmi, general secretary of Jamiat-ul-Ulema (Mumbai). Jamiat has been fighting the cases of Muslims youth arrested in various terror-related cases.

“Azmi was just 15 when he was picked up from his Govandi resi
dence for his alleged role in the conspiracy to assisnate J&K chief minister Farooque Abdullah. “We six boys, from six different states, were accused of befriending each other on the internet, planning the conspiracy, and trying to execute it,’’ Azmi had told TOI two years ago. He was acquitted by the Supreme Court. Incidentally, while in Tihar Jail, he shared the cell with the then Hizbul Mujahideen chief, Masood Azhar.

After his release, he enrolled in a mass media and journalism course and completed a one-year post graduate diploma. He worked as a subeditor for a well-known news portal, but quit soon after he joined advocate Majeed Memon as a trainee. The third among four brothers, Azmi stayed in a joint family. His father, Anees, was killed in the 1992 communal riots.

“Azmi would never ask for a fee. Whatever we paid to him, he accepted,’’ said Iqbal Makhdoomi, a retired vice principal from Malegaon whose son is facing charges in the 2006 Malegaon bomb blast case.


The Times of India, February 13, 2010

Underworld link suspected in Azmi hit




Professional Gunmen Used .32 Smith And Wessons, Claim Cops

V Narayan, S Ahmed Ali & Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: The murder of 32-year-old defence lawyer Shahid Azmi—who was gunned down by three unidentified assailants in his office at Taximen’s Colony, Kurla (West) on Thursday evening—was a professional hit, say investigating officers. “Given the way the hit was executed and the fact that four empty cartridges and a live one from two imported .32 Smith and Wesson revolvers were retrieved from the crime scene, we believe that a powerful underworld gang may have a hand in it,’’ said a senior officer. The prime suspect is the Bharat Nepali gang.

Azmi’s office boy, Indra Singh (23), who witnessed the incident told the police: “A long-haired man with two others came to the office around 7.30 pm and on learning that Azmi was not there, waited outside. Around 15 minutes later, Azmi came to the office and invited the long-haired man and his two associates into his cabin. Immediately, I heard shots, and saw smoke emanating from the weapons that the three were holding.’’

Said joint commissioner of police (crime) Rakesh Maria: “The manner in which the shootout was executed shows that the gunmen were professional.’’

The police suspect that Azmi was killed by the Bharat Nepali gang members. Nepali is a former as
sociate of don Chhota Rajan, but has now split from his boss and has formed a gang of his own with the help of another ex-Rajan aide, Santosh Shetty. Nepali is believed to be based abroad and is conducting his operations from there. The police suspect that Nepali is likely to target more people in an effort to get a bigger share of the underworld action.

The police, however, are following all angles, and have detained two dozen alleged contract killers and people associated with various gangs for questioning. They are also looking into whether Azmi’s murder is in any way linked to the killing of a Bangalorebased advocate. Even Rajan’s name has cropped up on the suspect list. “Chhota Rajan and petty gangster Ravi Pujari are also suspects, as both
claim to be patriotic dons, and might have taken umbrage over the fact that Azmi was defending an accused in a number of blasts cases,’’ said an officer, adding that in the past, Pujari had allegedly threatened Azmi for representing terror accused in court.

In his statement to the police, Singh said on hearing the gun shots, he rushed into his employer’s cabin. The armed men told him to leave the office as fast as he could if he valued his life. “Singh said that he ran to the neighbouring building where Azmi’s elder brother Arif and mother reside and alerted them. They, along with a doctor from the locality, rushed Azmi to Rajawadi Hospital but it was too late,” said Kurla senior police inspector Vijay Bagwe.

According to Singh, the trio arrived in an autorickshaw. “But how they managed to flee after firing five rounds at the lawyer, and that too without attracting attention, is a mystery,’’ said an officer. So far, not a single witness has seen the killers flee the colony, which is supposed to have a watchman at the entrance. Residents say that it is a 200-300 m walk from the building to the main entrance.

Meanwhile the police have tracked the cellphone, from which a call was made to Azmi before the murder, to a citizen who on questioning said he never possessed the number. Investigations said the phone number was issued by an operator on Wednesday.
From Lawlessness To Law

Family life
Shahid Azmi is survived by his mother Rehana, who is a housewife, and three brothers. His brother Tarique holds an MBA and works for a private firm. His second brother Arif has a Masters in commerce and is employed with a bank. Azmi’s youngest brother, Khalid, is a lawyer. His father Anees was killed during the 1992-93 riots. The family has denied reports Azmi was married or had an estranged wife


Education
He was in Class X in an English-medium school in Mumbai when he was picked up by the police for conspiring to kill J&K leader Dr Farooq Abdullah. He was sent to Tihar Jail where he completed his higher secondary education and studied Humanities via distance education. While in prison, he enrolled in a law college, and completed the course after he was acquitted by the apex court


Chequered Past
Azmi himself had spent time in prison when he was in custody at Delhi’s Tihar jail. He had been charged under the stringent Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) in 1992. It was alleged that Azmi was part of a group of extremists who wanted to kill Jammu and Kashmir’s political leader Dr Farooq Abdullah. Though Azmi was first convicted by a trial court in 1999 he was later given a clean chit by the Supreme Court later that year. While in jail, Azmi completed his education and started studying law in Mumbai on his release from prison


HIGH-PROFILE CASES
7/11 train blasts
Azmi defended Faizal Sheikh, the prime accused in the 2006 train blasts case, and most of the other accused. He was instrumental in challenging the application of MCOCA to the case. The plea was first heard by the HC and is currently pending before the Supreme Court. The main argument was that the alleged crime of terrorism could not be dealt with through MCOCA and thus it was wrong to slap the accused with those charges

Aurangabad arms haul
Before the July 2006 train bombings took place, the police had recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition in Aurangabad and made several arrests. Azmi represented some of the accused and here, too, he challenged the imposition of MCOCA to the case. He argued that a law framed to deal with crime committed for pecuniary gain could not be applied to men charged with smuggling weapons for terror activities. This issue is currently before the Supreme Court

Malegaon blasts
After the blasts left dozens dead at the textile town of Malegaon in September 2006, the case was heard at a special court in Mumbai. Azmi appeared in the matter even as the prosecution said that it had found an approver to give evidence against the other accused. He argued that his clients were innocent and wrongly charged in the matter by the police. Members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) were said to be behind the attack and the matter is still pending in court

Other cases
Azmi had appeared as one of the defence lawyers in the 2002 Ghatkopar blast case. All the accused in the case were acquitted by a special court in 2005 for lack of evidence. He also represented an accused in the killing of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader at Powai. This man, too, was acquitted for lack of evidence. Besides that, Azmi appeared for one of the co-accused of Rubina—a woman gangster of the Chhota Shakeel gang


PAST THREATS

In 2006, while Shahid Azmi was defending most of the accused in the 7/11 train blasts case, he had complained that the Ravi Pujari gang has threatened to gun him down if he did not back out. Azmi even filed a complaint at the Kurla police station and followed it up with an application in the MCOCA court. In his police complaint, Azmi said the anonymous caller told him his movements were monitored round the clock and that he would be killed either at his Kurla residence or office, or at his lawyer’s chamber at Fort. He told the police that the youth who has been asked to carry out Pujari’s orders to have him bumped off had visited his residence to confirm his address
SUSPECT: Police sketch of hitman

SHAHID AZMI’S ROLE IN 26/11 TRIAL
Azmi was representing Fahim Ansari, an Indian charged with preparing maps that facilitated the 26/11 terror strike on Mumbai. Azmi had finished cross-examining all the witnesses that deposed against his client and denied allegations that Ansari had anything to do with the attack. His defence of Ansari was in its final
stages. Azmi would have been expected to make the final arguments in the case had he still been alive. His line of defence was that Ansari had not prepared any maps, let alone supplied them to Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) commanders. It now remains to be seen who will defend Ansari. The 26/11 court will sit on February 20, and then the judge may take up the issue.

The Times of India, February 13, 2010

CITY SHRUGS OFF FEAR



Taking Advantage Of Heavy Police Security & A Holiday, Mumbaikars Catch First-Day Screenings Of ‘My Name Is Khan’

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Mumbai: Whatever else he might have done, actor Shah Rukh Khan ensured one thing: that the city’s politicians took time off from their routine and spent a morning in a cinema hall—first-day, first-show no less. Which other actor can brag of such a fan following?

On Friday, Mumbai came out in large numbers despite the Shiv Sena’s threat to stay away from cinema halls screening ‘My Name Is Khan’. Leading the pack of cinegoers was home minister R R Patil. Others, such as MP Sanjay Nirupam and state minister Arif Nasim Khan, also watched the film, as did the likes of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt. Khakhi freely mixed with mufti at theatres, as cops roamed conspicuously and security arrangements were tight.

SOUTH MUMBAI
“Those who want to exhibit the film will be given complete protection,’’ said Patil. The politician brushed aside all talk of the government’s failure to give confidence to exhibitors. “We have assured them protection. Now they have to decide if they want to release the film,’’ he added, before walking in to watch ‘My Name Is Khan’ at Nariman Point’s Inox theatre.

Taking complete advantage of the Mahashivratri holiday, Mumbaikars came out in numbers to cinema halls. “Initially, we were hesitant but then thought the police would do their job and we should enjoy the film,’’ said consultant Rakesh Gupta, who watched the film with his wife.

Byculla resident Mehmood Shaikh, who also watched the movie, had a different reason for showing up. “I came to see the crowds and the media coverage the movie was getting,’’ he said rather honestly.

At Sterling cinema in the Fort area, a mother-daughter duo watched the film without any fear. “The only problem was the long checking process at the entrance, but I guess they were just doing their job,’’ said the daughter. “We were asked to show photo IDs, probably to prove we were not Shiv Sainiks,’’ she said.

WESTERN SUBURBS
While only a couple of cinema halls in the western suburbs had chosen to screen the film in the morning, by afternoon nobody wanted to lose out on the business. Cops were deployed in large numbers at multiplexes in Goregaon’s Oberoi Mall and Andheri’s Fun Republic. ACP (West) Amitabh Gupta and zonal DCP (West) K M M Prasanna were both personally present at the theatres to supervise security arrangements.

MP and Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam watched the first show at Andheri’s Fun Republic. “There were many people in the theatre, including kids,’’ claimed Nirupam. “This is a clear indication that people are rejecting the Sena’s so-called movement,’’ he said. State minister Arif Nasim Khan also came to watch the film with friends.

Crowds from the western suburbs were seen carrying banners in support of the movie. IIT-ian Saurah Jain came with friends and said they would watch the film
without fear. But cinema owners played safe by only selling tickets an hour before showtime. Needless to say, ticket counters were swamped with cine-goers.

On Friday morning, Sena supporters pelted stones and bottles at Fun Republic but the cops nabbed them promptly. At Cinemax in Kandivili (East), there was an attempt to disrupt the screening. “About 30 Sainiks were picked up as soon as they began to tear posters,’’ said Ajit Patil, DCP (zone 12). All the accused were hauled to the Samta Nagar police station. In Andheri
(west), two BEST buses and an auto rickshaw were damaged. “We got calls saying shops were forcefully being made to shut down and BEST buses were stopped in Jawahar Nagar in Goregaon (west),’’ informed a senor police official. “The team reached the spot immediately but the miscreants couldn’t be traced,’’ he added.

EASTERN SUBURBS
Khan lovers from Dombivli, Kalyan and Ulhasnagar turned up at the Fame multiplex in Kalyan, only to be disappointed since
the booking counter was closed. “The decision not to show any films for an undefined period has come from the top,’’ said an employee.

But Mumbaikars thronged single-screen theatres in the central and eastern suburbs. Kalpana theatre at Kamani Road in Kurla (west) showed the film at 12 noon with 349 seats filled. “All tickets went in current booking and the show went off without incident,’’ said theatre manager Babu Bhai. Cops from police stations at Kurla and VB Nagar were deployed at the cinema hall. On February 9, glass windows were shattered in the theatre. The management believes their legal advisor led the agitation. “The man has gone into hiding but we are looking for him,’’ said ACP (Kurla division) Prabhakar Satam.

The Ghatkopar-based single screen Shreyas cinema sold 35 tickets for the noon show—a third of normal capacity. “We decided to go ahead with the release after the zonal DCP personally led the security charge on the premises,’’ said an employee. Meanwhile, bandobast was beefed up at the Ghatkopar-based Cinemax theatre on Ram Narayan Narkar Marg where police officials from Pant Nagar, led by senior inspector MS Suryavanshi, provided security.
—Reported by Yogesh Naik, Mateen Hafeez, Vijay V Singh, Sanjeev Shivadekar, Nitasha Natu & V Narayan
BRAVING THE STORM: (Top) Cineastes mill outside an Andheri multiplex for tickets on Friday. (Above) A fan sports a T-shirt supporting the SRK movie. (Left) Home minister R R Patil waves his ticket stub

The Times of India, February 13, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Birthday boy, pal on bike killed in J J flyover mishap



KILLER STRETCH

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Two Ghatkopar teenagers were killed in a road accident on J J flyover on Wednesday night. One of them, Aditya Danda—who turned 18 on Wednesday—wanted to shop at CST and
was riding pillion with his friend Siddhant Dudhane when their motorcycle collided with a car on the flyover at 11 pm.

``Dudhane lost control of the bike near the Mandvi post office turn, after which it hit the divider and went into the opposite lane. It then collided with a car
coming from the opposite direction,’’ said senior inspector Shamsher Pathan of the Pydhonie police station.

In the last six years, 25 people have been killed and more than 100 injured on the flyover.

The boys were not drunk, said the police, adding that a case of negligent and rash driving has been registered against Dudhane. “The bike collided with a car driven by a Thane resident, Kirti Agarwal (23) who was returning home,’’ said an officer.

Danda was rushed to JJ Hospital where the doctors pronounced him dead while Dudhane was first taken to GT Hospital and later shifted to Bombay Hospital where he died. “The two boys had left their homes around 8.30 pm saying they will return late at night,’’ the officer added.

Dudhane was pursuing a hotel management course at D Y Patil college in Navi Mumbai while Danda was a first-year BCom student at Poddar College in Matunga. Incidentally, Dudhane secured his driving licence just 20 days ago.


The Times of India, February 12, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Drugs found in Nooria’s blood

Nooria Haveliwala

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: NRI Nooria Haveliwala who is facing a case of drunk driving and for killing two persons, will now be booked for consuming drugs. A forensic science laboratory test found the presence of morphine and cannabis in Haveliwala’s blood and urine samples.

Haveliwala (27) is lodged in Byculla jail since January 30 when she rammed her Honda CRV and killed sub-inspector Dina Nath Shinde and a biker, Afzal, near Marine Lines. Four constables were also injured. She was found to be drunk at the time of the accident. She was booked for culpable homicide, greivous hurt and rash and negligent driving. The policemen were on an anti-drunk driving nakabandi when the accident took place. Haveliwala’s passport has been seized.

“A forensic science lab report states that she has tested positive for drugs. The lab authorities have found the
presence of morphine and cannabis in her blood and urine. Now, we will book Haveliwala under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act,’’ said Himanshu Roy, JCP (law and order). The city police is yet to decide when to take Haveliwala’s custody again.

The blood report stated that the alcohol content in her body was 144 mg/100 ml, which is less than one-third of what had been detected by the breathalyser. A spot test carried out by the traffic police on Haveliwala had revealed 457 mg/100 ml of alcohol in her body. “We will submit an application in court to get her custody again to question her,’’ said Roy. He added that the police want to find out from where she had purchased them. She did not admit to having consumed drugs during the questioning,’’ added Roy.

Haveliwala had told the police that she had consumed seven cans of beer throughout the day on January 30. The LT Marg police had also seized three cans of beer from Haveliwala’s car. The police failed to find any drugs at her Colaba residence.


The Times of India, February 11, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sena tears up truce, screens


Metro cinema


CM Assures Multiplexes of Adequate Security, Cops Make Preventive Arrests Across City

Bharati Dubey, V Narayan & Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: The terror after the truce on Tuesday took everyone by surprise. After promising to let Shahrukh say My Name Is Khan, the Shiv Sena went on the rampage again, attacking movie halls across the city where advance bookings for the film opened, prompting producer Karan Johar, distributors and multiplex owners to seek police protection.

Halls like Shreyas, Mehul and Huma Adlabs in the eastern suburbs and Metro in South Mumbai were attacked by Sainiks. Shiv Sena activists posing as cinegoers bought tickets to a show of Striker at Metro cinema, entered the hall and tore the screen in the evening. Earlier in the day, Sainiks barged into Huma Adlabs and tore up the screen during a show of 3 Idiots. The booking counter of Mehul Cinema at Mulund was ransacked, additional commissioner of police (east region) Ritesh Kumar told TOI.

Karan Johar alongwith distributors and exhibitors of the movie met police commissioner D Sivanandhan on Tuesday asking for security. “The police commissioner has assured us of adequate security,’’ said Johar.

The police, initially caught unawares by the Sena’s assurance not to disrupt the film,
swung into action later. After the attacks, cinema halls had mobile police vans with about 18 policemen stationed outside them.Till late at night,over 350 Shiv Sainiks were arrested from across the city as a preventive measure. “Some were arrested for rioting while others were picked up as a preventive measure,’’ said Sivanandhan.

Deputy commissioner of police (Zone IX) K M M Prasanna held meetings with theatre owners under his jurisdiction (Bandra to Juhu), comprising 17 screens. “We assured theatre owners of adequate police
protection.’’ “Till 8pm we arrested 45 people for rioting, unlawful assembly and as preventive measures,” additional commissioner of police (West region) Amitabh Gupta said.

Cinema halls closed advance bookings after Tuesday’s
incidents. Vishal Kapoor, COO, Fun Cinemas who attended the meeting on Tuesday morning, said, “We have been told there will be enough police security at the time of the relase and asked to open advance bookings. We did so on Monday but stopped it now. If things get better we shall open advance bookings on Wednesday.’’

Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police (law and order), said distributors had given police a list of 63 cinema halls where the movie is to be screened. “We will deploy police at distributors’ offices and cinema halls and provide personal security to them if required. We have already given security to some distributors,’’ said Roy. He indicated cops in muftis will be present in cinema halls. “Before the audience is allowed in the cinema hall, there will be frisking,’’ he said. He added state reserve police force will be called in.

The film industry is not surprised. Mahesh Bhatt said, “In 1989, when Pakistan cricketerturned actor Mohsin Khan acted in my film Saathi, it met a similar fate.It was forced out of halls by the Sena because of his nationality.We spoke to Thackeray and got the impression the matter was resolved but later Mohsin was attacked outside RK Studio.’’ Film writer Dilip Thakur hopes it will be like Amitabh Bachchan’s Shahenshah.He said,“Maratha Mandir was cordoned off by the police, the film released smoothly and Bofors was forgotten.’’


Chavan assures protection
In a late-night meeting with distributors and multiplex owners, CM Ashok Chavan said the government is prepared to protect multiplexes. The meeting was attended by home minister R R Patil, minister of state Ramesh Bagwe, director-general of police A N Roy, additional chief secretary Chandra Iyengar.
Yogesh Naik | TNN
Huma Adlabs, Kanjurmarg
Mehul, Mulund
R-Mall, Mulund

The Times of India, February 10, 2010