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Evidence build 7/11 Mumbai blasts accused on death row; now NIA, intelligence and police files are questioning that proof

Early one summer season morning in 2006, 5 men gathered internal a dingy condo within the Deccan Cooperative Society in Sewri, on the jap fringes of South Mumbai. The boys busied themselves moulding a black, plasticky goo, its texture no longer dissimilar to the Play-Doh thousands of kindergarten children would were droll themselves with at around the identical time. Their work used to be performed sooner than lunchtime: 35 kg of ammonium-nitrate explosive gel had been packed internal stress cookers, alongside with detonators linked to miniature plastic apprehension clocks, every spot to 6.30 pm.

“I would coast first with one fetch to Churchgate, and preserve the fetch within the First Class compartment,” one of many men later suggested the National Investigation Company, in a labeled interrogation [1]. “I would derive down at Marine Lines blueprint, and then coast assist to Churchgate.  Subsequent, Atif would coast away with two baggage, and also near assist to Churchgate. Abu Rashid and Sajid will purchase one fetch every and preserve the bags within the chosen trains. Eventually, Shahnawaz would near to Churchgate with two baggage, and we’d build both of them within the trains”.

“The full lot went as planned”: 209 folk were killed, and over 700 injured, mighty more than on 26/11.

In just a few weeks, the area will likely be in a order to look for The Mauritanian — director Kevin McDonald’s wrenching telling of the epic of Mohamedou Ould Salahi, tortured and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for 14 years for crimes he did no longer commit. The epic of the 7/11 Five illustrates, as nothing else may well perhaps, that this hell is nearer to dwelling than we predict about.

Five years ago, a courtroom sentenced Kamal Sheikh, Faisal Ansari, Ehtesham Siddiqui, Naveed Khan and Asif Khan to death for his or her purpose within the bombing of Mumbai’s suburban deliver machine on 11 July 2006 — among the many most savage acts of mass-casualty terrorism within the area. Seven other conspirators were handed down existence sentences; perfect one alleged perpetrator, Wahid Sheikh, used to be acquitted. For the tons of of households torn apart by one of many area’s most deadly terrorist assaults, the legislation seemed as if it may well well occupy in a roundabout map brought closure.

Moreover, there are these disquieting info: In judicial courtroom cases, and in labeled inner paperwork, some being made public by Firstpost these days, the National Investigations Company, Andhra Pradesh’s élite counter-terrorism police unit OCTOPUS, and even the Maharashtra Authorities, occupy said the attack used to be applied by fully diversified perpetrators.

In most definitely the most weird epic to ever emerge from India’s legal justice machine, 5 harmless men will be on death row — whereas folk that applied the attack, some of them in penal advanced, occupy below no circumstances been prosecuted for his or her crime.

The trial of the 7/11 Five used to be built around proof gathered by the Mumbai Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad within the weeks after the bombings. In essence, the ATS said the bombings were applied by a personnel made up of the 7/11 Five, alongside with Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists brought by Ansari thru Nepal. The bombs were assembled in a condominium in Govandi, the ATS said; one of many Pakistanis concerned, Faisalabad resident Muhammad Ali, used to be killed by police in a shootout on Antop Hill.

Even though the ATS case excited some scepticism even in 2006, most seen no reason to area the police fable. Then, in November 2007, an email arrived in newsrooms across India, claiming responsibility for a string of bombings on behalf of an until-then unknown organisation known as the Indian Mujahideen: at Varanasi in March 2006; Hyderabad in August 2007; 7/11. The e-mails forged the bombings as reprisals for anti-Muslim communal violence in India, within the mildew of the 1993 assaults in Mumbai.

The Indian Mujahideen e-mails persevered to advance after the fresh attack, in most cases internal minutes of an explosion. In one, issued after the bombings at Ahmedabad on 26 July 2008, the organisation claimed to be “raising the illustrious banner of jihad in opposition to the Hindus and all folk that fight and resist us, and right here we inaugurate our revenge with the lend a hand and permission of Allah — a monstrous revenge of our blood, our lives and our honour that may well, Insha-Allah [God-willing], close your survival on this land”.

Indulge in loads of within the legislation-enforcement community, the ATS had originally passed over the Indian Mujahideen’s 7/11 claim, writing it off as a hoax. Then, in 2008, Delhi Police investigators stumbled exact into a firefight with Indian Mujahideen operatives hidden out at New Delhi’s Batla Dwelling — and the precise insights into the inner workings of the jihadist began to emerge.

From a one-time air-conditioning technician known as Sadiq Israr Sheikh, held soon after the Batla Dwelling shootout, police forces across the nation would near to be taught that nearly every thing they blueprint referring to the bombings, and about 7/11, used to be harmful.

In the summer season of 2012, the NIA started what would change into India’s most thoroughgoing investigation of the Indian Mujahideen, an practically archaeological examination of the community’s genesis and metastasis [2]. Led by Superintendents of Police Vikas Vaibhav and Swayam Prakash Pani, the investigation focussed on the Indian Mujahideen’s top management, among them jihadists Riyaz Shahbandri and Muhammad Ahmed Siddibapa. Even though it centred on events after 2008, the investigation also sought to manufacture a pudgy fable of the terrorist community’s operations across time.

Despite the incontrovertible fact that the NIA’s case didn’t glimpse the Mumbai deliver assaults — since the case used to be already being prosecuted — its investigators figured out compelling proof that the 7/11 Five had nothing to full with bombings.

“Investigation has established,” a chargesheet filed in 2013 data [3a, 3b], “that the accused Asadullah Akhtar used to be mindful referring to the participation of the members of his community within the Indian Mujahideen within the blasts at Sarojini Nagar, Delhi, in 2005, Mumbai deliver blasts in 2006, Gorakhpur blasts in 2007 and UP courtroom blasts in 2007”.

“The Mumbai deliver blasts (2006),” the chargesheet goes on, “were applied by by Indian Mujahideen operatives in conjunction with but no longer restricted to Sadiq Sheikh, Bada Sajid [‘Big’ Sajid, a nickname for Mohammad Sajid], Atif Ameen and Abu Rashid”.

Asadullah Akhtar’s testimony supported lengthy-standing suspicions some order police forces, under intense political stress to camouflage results, had simply framed suspects. The Delhi Police, as an instance, had charged Kashmir resident Tariq Dar, alongside with Mohammad Rafiq Shah and Mohammad Fazli, for executing the Sarojini Nagar bombing — costs of which they were eventually acquitted in 2017.

The Uttar Pradesh Police, equally, had arrested Mohammad Waliullah, a cleric at a mosque in Phulpur, on costs of getting applied the 2006 Varanasi bombing. He used to be convicted for the possession of unlawful weapons, but his purpose within the bombing used to be — looking out back, unsurprisingly — below no circumstances proved.

Evidence suggesting the innocence of the 7/11 Five had, in spite of every thing, begun to mount lengthy sooner than the NIA started its investigation. In 2008, a labeled file ready by Andhra Pradesh’s élite OCTOPUS — on the time, the very most fascinating-resourced counter-terrorism police for in India — underlined startling similarities between the bombs former within the 7/11 assaults and those spot off off by the Indian Mujahideen in prior and subsequent bombings [4]. In all these cases, the bomb-makers former a Samay-imprint mechanical clock, fitted with a extra 9-volt battery as the timer, linking it to 2 detonators.

Indulge in authors, bomb-makers occupy distinctive stylistic signatures: programs that they know, thru expertise, to be legitimate. The Indian Mujahideen, OCTOPUS recorded, “developed delayed clock timers fully relying on steadily-former cheap clocks. The timer knowledgeable of the Indian Mujahideen experimented with Ajanta clocks, digital clocks and China watches. All failed [but the] Samay look for experiment turned out to attain success”. “As a observe,” the doc states, “they former red/yellow/brown wires for the definite wires and white/black wire for the negative terminal”.

First former within the Indian Mujahideen’s attack on Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar on 29 October 2005, the Samay circuit ended in 3 kg of the explosive pentaerythritol tetranitrate, fitted internal two stress cookers and a steel lunch box. For their subsequent strike, at Varanasi on 7 March 2006, the tool used to be identical, though laborious-to-originate PETN used to be substituted with commercially-obtainable ammonium nitrate, a chemical widely former in mining and construction, moreover to in agriculture.

The Indian Mujahideen only once experimented with an alternate timer, utilizing electrically-erasable programmable read-only reminiscence, for 27 improvised explosive gadgets planted in Surat on 26 July 2008. The bombs fizzled — leading the organisation to revert to Samay clocks for subsequent assaults.

PTI/File Photo of the 2006 Mumbai train bombings

For the most part, though, police investigators didn’t need forensic proof to be persuaded of the very fact of what had came about on 7/11. Atif Ameen had died within the Batla Dwelling shootout, whereas Mohammad Sajid, Abu Rashid Ahmad and Shahnawaz Alam fled to Pakistan and then to the Islamic Disclose, where they’re going to be killed in struggling with.

In penal advanced, though, there used to be one man who may well perhaps converse the very fact.

The surprisingly intimate dialog Sadiq Israr Sheikh had with a Gujarat Police officer one afternoon in 2008 — a dialog that, though videotaped, can no longer by legislation be former as proof in his legal prosecution — presents us perception no longer perfect into what came about on 7/11, but why. His epic wasn’t novel: Born in 1975, the Indian Mujahideen grew up in Cheeta Camp, a mission spot as much as accommodate slum residents displaced by the construction of the Bhabha Atomic Learn Centre. His father had purchased his 5 bighas of land in Azamgarh and moved to Mumbai, where he ran a small retailer.

In 1992, Sheikh claimed, his world modified. “Before the Babri Masjid used to be demolished,” he said, “my inclination used to be against Communism; I used to be Communist-minded. Before that I used to be nationalist-minded, due to the the locality in Bombay where I lived used to be a defence companies dwelling”.

Then, “after the Babri Masjid demolition and riots, my mentality modified and I turned against my religion. And due to the I used to be upset, in 1996, I joined SIMI”. There, he recalled, “the distress that had taken root in my heart after the Babri Masjid episode received nurtured”.

Big numbers of younger Mumbai Muslims had turned to the College students Islamic Slip of India around this time — and no longer perfect for the obvious causes. For Sheikh, SIMI equipped an speed from the grim realities of existence in Cheeta Camp. “I former to procure fights, both at dwelling and originate air, which troubled my fogeys. So I blueprint I ought to restful derive into the firm of gorgeous folk.” “I could well perhaps occupy also joined the Jama’at,” he ruminated, referring to the pietist Tablighi Jama’at deliver, “but those folk change into full mullahs — they’re no longer alive to on the area”.

Despite the incontrovertible fact that Sheikh below no circumstances earned a excessive-faculty level, falling by the wayside of the Saboo Siddiqui College in Byculla, he did be triumphant in constructing some foundations for existence. In 2000, having received an air-conditioning qualification from a technical institute in Dongri, he apprenticed with Godrej, doing effectively ample to be equipped pudgy-time job. Lower than a year later, though, the Godrej plant moved to Mohali, in Punjab, and Sheikh figured out himself at a loose cease.

Intelligence Bureau interrogators occupy — in a labeled doc that is inadmissible for legal courtroom cases — recorded the epic of what came about subsequent [1]. The Sheikh family received a explain over with from a Hyderabad-basically based fully mostly relative, Mujahid Salim Azmi — the son of a worthy cleric, later killed in a controversial detect by the Gujarat Police. The two men figured out standard ground in their madden in opposition to anti-Muslim communalism in India, and their shared perception that jihadism used to be the community’s salvation.

Following those conversations, Salim launched Sheikh to Asif Raza Khan, a ganglord-turned-jihadist who used to be then within the diagram of developing what would develop into the Indian Mujahideen. Asif Reza Khan, in flip, organized for Sheikh to wing to Karachi in February 2001, armed with false scoot paperwork. He said he received practising on the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Umm-ul-Qura camp, near Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, and then took a worldly route at a camp in Bahawalpur.

In 2002, in accordance to Sheikh’s testimony, he participated in his first terrorist action — an attack on the US consulate in Kolkata, applied to avenge the killing of Asif Raza Khan in a shootout with police.

Later that year, Amir Raza Khan, the brother of Asif Raza Khan, equipped him a job in Dubai. His co-group incorporated Riyaz Shahbandri, a chum from the SIMI conferences he attended in 1996, who would coast on to vary into the Indian Mujahideen’s boss.

From September 2004, the community started its war: The most appropriate urban terrorism advertising campaign ever done by a terrorist community in India. For the next four years, Indian police forces and intelligence teams chased the shadows of the perpetrators — at any time when finding themselves at pointless-ends.

Evidence on Sadiq Sheikh’s purpose in 7/11 began to in most cases appear in courts across the nation by dreary 2008, as order police forces’ investigations into the Indian Mujahideen moved forward to prosecution. In a press release to the Delhi Police’s Particular Cell on 20 November 2008, as an instance, Sheikh said he and Atif Ameen had “ready the bombs which were stored in three native trains in Mumbai in 2006” [5]. “I had stored bombs at Rly [Railway] blueprint, Churchgate, Mumbai, on baggage provider [sic., throughout]. Atif went to Mangalore and brought the explosives from Riyaz Bhatkal.”

Legislation-enforcement officers across the nation began to inquire of questions about key aspects of the ATS’ 7/11 investigation — even questioning whether or no longer the Govandi chawl it had identified as a bomb-manufacturing facility in spite of every thing had ample dwelling to assemble the seven explosive gadgets.

Broken-down Director-Classic of Police Rakesh Maria, then leading the investigation into the Indian Mujahideen assaults by Mumbai’s Crime Branch, recorded a confessional assertion from Sheikh, detailing his purpose within the 7/11 bombings [6]. A 2d, supporting confessional assertion used to be received from his companion, Arif Badruddin Sheikh [7].

The Crime Branch soon figured out its work wasn’t welcome. The price-sheet it filed indicting Sheikh, sooner than 7/11 special engage YD Shinde, remains unopened more than a decade on. The causes for this order of no task are nowhere recorded in writing, but aren’t laborious to guess: Neither then-chief ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh nor Ashok Chavan would occupy welcomed politically-detrimental costs the police may well perhaps honest occupy framed harmless men. Dwelling Minister P Chidambaram did no longer even reply to letters from the accused pointing to the inconsistencies and seeking a unique investigation.

For its part, ATS answered by claiming Sheikh had “fabricated his testimony” to exonerate the 7/11 Five — a mystifying proposition, because it may well well dangle implicating himself and others in custody for the sake of fellows he had below no circumstances met.

Even as the 7/11 trial went on, Maharashtra prosecutors started submitting bureaucracy in other terrorism-connected cases energetic the Indian Mujahideen for its serial bombing advertising campaign. In 2009, Additional Chief Secretary Chitkala Zutshi — then holding price of the Dwelling Department — granted permission to prosecute 2011 bombing accused Afzal Usmani under the Maharashtra Defend watch over of Organised Crime Act, pointing to the Indian Mujahideen purpose in a couple of assaults concentrating on Mumbai and other cities [8]. Broken-down city police chief Hasan Ghafoor, equally, granted sanction for Usmani’s prosecution [9].

These sanctions named Sadiq Israr Sheikh as a member of the Indian Mujahideen’s apprehension advertising campaign, urging the courts, because it were, to factor in all he had said referring to the community used to be correct — with the one, single exception of 7/11.

The Bombay High Court docket is scheduled to listen to the appeals of the two members of the 7/11 Five who occupy filed appeals in opposition to their conviction. Three others occupy yet to file appeals. The testimony of the varied NIA and police officers who concluded that the 7/11 convicts had nothing to full with the bombings may well perhaps, clearly, occupy a notable relating the case — but this may well perhaps honest purchase political will to originate the gates for the general fact to be suggested.

In April 2013, Sheikh looked sooner than the 7/11 courtroom, summoned by the defence to converse his epic. He denied vivid the perpetrators, and claimed he had been tortured by the Crime Branch into confessing his purpose within the bombings. “The epic that you mutter used to be given by the Crime Branch,” a defence legal legitimate urged to him, “used to be no longer in spite of every thing a epic but the most fascinating order referring to the 7/11 railway blasts”.

He did no longer lie: “I cease no longer are desirous to reply this ask” [10].

Five years after the 7/11 convictions, it’s time somebody does.

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