Saturday’s arrests of the two terror suspects in Mumbai who wanted to set fires at three locations across the city shows that Pakistani planners are now returning to their old ally, the underworld, to plot terrorist acts.
In the recent case, Abdul Latif Rashid alias Guddu, 29, and Riyaz Ali Imtiaz alias Rehan, 22, were arrested for conspiring to set fires at the ONGC office in Bandra (East), Mangaldas Market in Kalbadevi and Thakkar Mall in Borivli. Latif’s uncle, Abdul Bashir Khan, is an absconding accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, which was plotted and executed by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, who is now living in Karachi. Khan is currently living with Dawood in the latter’s Karachi flat and works as his assistant.
The security establishment in India has been claiming that the D-gang is hand-in-glove with Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) in the execution of conspiracies in India.
In the 11/7 Mumbai train blasts case, the police arrested a doctor, two engineers and a sotware programmer who did not have any prior criminal record. However, the recent case points to the in-depth involvement of the D-gang. “The two accused were in touch with a D-gang member who had asked them to identify youths for terror training in Pakistan,” said the source.
Officials in the security forces said terror bosses may have returned to the underworld because the police have mentally de-linked the underworld from terror. “The police seem to have formed an opinion that gangsterism is entirely different from terrorism and they do not pay heed to gangsters when it comes to probing terror cases nowadays. This could be one of the reasons why the Pakistani terror handlers are focusing on the use of the underworld,” the security source said.
“In 1993, the underworld had first participated in a terror strike. Later, the modus operandi changed and the handlers started recruiting young people with no criminal records as the underworld was already on the police list,” said a security establishment official.
In the 2001 Parliament attack, new faces who were neither in the police list nor connected to the underworld were recruited. In the post-2001 modus operandi, the use of educated youths from the Muslim community was seen.
Software engineer Mansoor Peerbhoy, a Pune resident, who had a job with a Rs 19-lakh-a-year salary, was arrested by the Mumbai Crime Branch in 2008 for being part of the Indian Mujahideen. He was accused of hacking into computers and sending terror emails.
Earlier, in a string of post-2001 terror-related cases in Mumbai, an MBBS, an MBA, three civil engineers, four mechanical engineers, two chemical engineers, a pilot and a professor working for the National Defence Academy, Pune, had been arrested. While the police had focused on these men, most of them were later acquitted by the court or discharged by the central Pota review committee.
Noteworthy also is that absconding Indian Mujahideen operative, Riyaz Bhatkal, who is also suspected to be in Pakistan, was connected to the Fazlur Rehman gang before he formed his own extortion outfit. Bhatkal later took to terrorism.