The attempts by the Pune police probing the February 13 German Bakery blast to track Riyaz Bhatkal may prove futile, since there is confirmation now that the founder of the Indian Mujahideen is safely ensconed in Karachi.
A police officer from Hyderabad, who is currently interrogating Ahmed Khwaja, a Lashkar-e-Tayiba militant currently in custody of Hyderbad police, told rediff.com that Bhatkal is in Karachi.
The official said that Khwaja was also questioned in-depth regarding the Pune blast, but he did not appear to know much about the plot.
"He has details of the Indian Mujahideen operatives and says that there are three key persons who control the IM. Bhatkal and Mohsin Chaudhary head the India operations, but they report directly to a man by the name Aamir Raza, who is a Pakistani national," the officer said.
Khwaja also revealed that Bhatkal, who stayed in Dubai for a considerable amount of time, was asked to shift base to Pakistan at the insistence of the Inter Services Intelligence.
Bhatkal is a high-profile personality for them, and he is being protected by the ISI. Sources in the Intelligence Bureau told rediff.com that Bhatkal holds the key, and nabbing him would help crack the entire IM network in India.
The IB further adds that they have got information that Bhatkal has been housed under the protection of the ISI at the high-security Defence Enclave in Karachi, which show his importance for the ISI..
The IB says that the interrogation of Khwaja and Shahzad (who was picked up by the Delhi police from Azamgarh, UP in connection with the Batla House case) have made one thing clear and that is the ISI was not planning on launching attacks in India with its Pakistan and Afghanistan based cadres.
Both Shahzad and Khwaja were aware of the Karachi plot (IB had sounded off a warning pertaining to a terror plot that was being hatched in Pakistan to target several Indian cities), and during their interrogation, their bosses told them that they needed to gear up for this.
The IB says that this is a worrying factor since the ISI is roping in Indian operatives for this plot. They are setting up their network in India and most of the heads of the India-based terror groups have been told about this plot, so that when they plan on carrying out the attacks, there would be no problems with the logistics.
The ISI, which plans on carrying out the Karachi plot with the help of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Al Qaeda and the Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami, will depend on Indian operatives for logistics and also to ensure that they provide a safe passage into the country for their fidayeen fighters.