The Ghost Who Bombs: Who Is ‘India’s Most Wanted’?

On 28 August 2013, one of India’s most wanted terrorists was by caught Indian authorities after a 6 year chase without firing a single bullet. Even though the capture of Yasin Bhatkal, one of the founders of the dreaded Indian Mujahideen group might not have been an action packed event, there’s enough drama in the entire operation for it to merit a film. Arjun Kapoor-starrer Indias Most Wanted, directed by Raj Kumar Gupta, delves into what could easily be termed as India’s ‘mission impossible’ - the arrest of Bhatkal, a terrorist accused of being involved in 10 deadly bombings in India and a master of disguise, who had given Indian authorities the slip on several occasions over the years.

Even as the trailer of India’s Most Wanted dropped online, after several years of arrest, charges were finally framed against Bhatkal in connection with the 2010 German Bakery blast case on 29 April at a court in Pune.

File photo of Yasin Bhatkal.

Yasin Bhatkal was born as Mohammed Ahmed Siddibappa in 1983 in Karnataka and studied till the 10th grade in Bhatkal before going to Dubai to reportedly assist in his father’s business. While the exact year of him surfacing in Pakistan is disputed, Bhatkal is believed to have undertaken training in arms and explosives for 50 days in the country some time between 2006-2008.

‘The Ghost Who Bombs’

Bhatkal, also known as ‘The Ghost Who Bombs’, was linked to 10 bomb blasts in different parts of India since 2008. These include the Ahmedabad and Delhi blasts of 2008, the bombing at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore in 2010, the German Bakery blasts in Pune and the serial blasts in Mumbai in 2011.

Investigators and anti-terror squads in India were completely in the dark about Yasin Bhatkal’s identity till the German Bakery bombing in Pune on 13 February, 2010. Till then, the police officials were only armed with photographs of Bhatkal from his youth and a sketch made after vague descriptions from arrested Indian Mujahideen terrorists. However, at the German Bakery blasts site, a CCTV finally captured the image of Yasin Bhatkal planting the bomb.

The elusive Bhatkal was listed on the ‘Most Wanted’ records of 12 states including Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In 2013, the central government announced a Rs 3.5 crore reward for any information or details that could help in his capture.

The 20 Sec Call Which Did Bhatkal In

File photo of Yasin Bhatkal.

After a 3 year follow up, it was in August 2013 that the intel got confirmed news about Bhatkal’s plans to travel out of India. The man was reportedly going to travel out of his safe sanctuary in Bihar to Nepal. The agencies moved into action and tapped his family’s cellphones. While in Nepal, Bhatkal reportedly collected money to transfer cash to his wife and made the mistake of calling up and speaking to her for 20 seconds, which revealed his location.

Bhatkal was living in disguise as Dr Yusuf a practitioner of Unani medicine in Nepal’s Pokhara city. Pretending to be an undercover Unani doctor was something that Bhatkal used to do while he was living in North Bihar earlier while he recruited youngsters into IM.

According to reports during his arrest, it was the Nepalese intelligence agency which apparently first spotted Bhatkal in Nepal. It was reported that The National Investigation Department of Nepal in turn informed the Intelligence Bureau in India.

A “Zero Budget” Undercover Mission

Ahmedabad Crime Branch with Yasin Bhatkal and his accomplice Asadullah in Ahmedabad.

While the Joint Director and local intelligence officials were convinced they had their man, the top bosses in Delhi were not. When the higher-ups denied the local team the permission to travel to Nepal, the Joint Director green lit an “unofficial” undercover operation with a team of 6 men, which included the SP of East Champaran, who eventually captured Bhatkal in Nepal.

Since this wasn’t an authorised operation, the intel team did not even get a budget for the mission to capture one of India’s most wanted terrorists. In fact, it was reported that the officials had to use money from their own pocket to fund the operation. A detailed report in Open magazine states that the leader of the Special Operations Group that led the team to arrest Bhatkal later received a cash reward of Rs 1 lakh, and though the Home Minister had issued a notification with a reward of Rs 3.5 lakh, it was later withdrawn.

The gritty details of this “unofficial” mission to nab India’s Osama will be brought to life in Indias Most Wanted on 24 May. Watch the trailer here:

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