2008 Bengaluru serial blasts: Key accused fled to Saudi using visa obtained 5 months before blasts, investigation reveals

Mystery behind the bombings unravelled in October 2008 when four youths from Kerala were shot dead by security forces in Kashmir while they were allegedly attempting to cross over to Pakistan to join a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) training camp.

A 35-year-old man who was “informally deported” from Saudi Arabia and arrested at the Thiruvananthapuram airport on September 21 in connection with the July 2008 serial blasts in Bengaluru fled India 12 years ago, using a Saudi visa he obtained five months prior to the blasts, investigations by the police have revealed.

Shuhaib Kattukalanthakath alias Faizal, who was arrested by the Bengaluru Police upon his arrival at Thiruvananthapuram, was part of a group that planted nine IEDs around Bengaluru and was physically present when some of the devices were planted, officials said.

Some of the IEDs, which were made using printed circuit boards as timers, failed. However, one exploded at a bus stop in south Bengaluru’s Madivala, causing the death of a 32-year-old woman.

The probe after Shuhaib’s arrest has revealed that he was in possession of a visa for Saudi Arabia several months before the bombings as he had family members working in that country. “He left the country within a few days of the blasts. He had planned it well in advance,” police sources said.

The mystery behind the bombings unravelled in October 2008 when four youths from Kerala were shot dead by security forces in Kashmir while they were allegedly attempting to cross over to Pakistan to join a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) training camp. The investigations from Kashmir revealed that the four youths — Abdul Raheem, Mohammad Fayas, Md Fayis and Md Yasin — were among a group of men from Kerala who were funded by the LeT to carry out blasts in Bengaluru.

As many as 32 persons were subsequently arrested by police and agencies, including prime accused Tadiyandavede Nasir and his associate Shafas Shamsuddin, who had escaped to Bangladesh. After their arrest, Bengaluru Police in December 2009 said in a statement, “The Bangalore city serial blasts were carried out with the financial assistance and guidance of the LeT. Nasir and Shafas were assisted financially by the LeT during their stay in Bangladesh.”

One of the high-profile personalities arrested for the conspiracy to execute the Bengaluru bombings is firebrand Kerala political leader Abdul Nasser Madani.

The case is currently in the trial stage and a separate chargesheet will be filed against Shuhaib, police sources said.

A key suspect still missing in the case is Kerala resident K P Sabeer, a former SIMI leader with strong connections to the LeT. Sabeer, who fled India on a fake passport in November 2008, is reportedly living in Pakistan, according to information obtained by security agencies in April 2016 from K A Anoop, an associate of Sabeer who was deported from the UAE in 2016.

In the course of the investigations since Shuhaib’s arrest, police have learnt that he met Sabeer in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

The NIA’s investigations in a case related to the 2008 recruitment of Kerala youths for terrorism has revealed that Sabeer took five youths — Raheem, Fayas, Fayis, Yasin and Abdul Jabbar — to Kashmir in September 2008 and handed them over to an LeT operative. The five were reportedly taken to an LeT camp for training, but Raheem, Fayas, Fayis and Yasin were shot dead by security forces. Jabbar, who managed to escape, was later arrested by the Kerala Police.

As the plots behind the Bengaluru serial blasts case and the recruitment of Kerala youths for terrorism unravelled, Sabeer fled India via Mumbai on a forged passport on November 21, 2008.

It is suspected that Sabeer’s escape was facilitated by the then LeT commander Rehan alias Wali alias Abdul Aziz alias Rashid Abdullah, a Pakistani national, who has also been linked to the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. Wali has also been named by the NIA as an accused in a separate case pertaining to the plot to recruit Kerala youths for terrorism.

Wali is also among three foreign nationals linked to the LeT who are yet to be brought to book for the Bengaluru blasts along with Pakistani national Mubashir Sayeed and Abdul Aziz Hooti, an Omani national.

Riyaz Bhatkal, the founder of the Indian Mujahideen, who collaborated with the LeT-linked Kerala group to procure timers for IEDs, is another key missing suspect from the 2008 serial blasts case.

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