Some strange goings-on in the attempt to track down those responsible for the Pune bombing in February. This week, there appeared to be a breakthrough when intelligence services apprehended Abdul Samad Siddi Bawa at Mangalore airport, where he had just arrived from Dubai. He is the brother of prime suspect and Indian Mujahideen operative Mohammad Zarar Siddibapa, also known as Yasin Bhatkal.
However, when Home Minister P Chidambaram congratulated specialist anti-terrorist squad ATS on the arrest, it was Samad and not his brother who had suddenly become the main focus. He said in a statement on 25 May: “I compliment ATS Maharashtra, the Pune Police and Central agencies on apprehending the prime suspect within hundred days of the incident.”
According to The Hindu, the ATS had never included Samad’s name in their investigations and he has strenuously denied any involvement during questioning this week. The reason for his arrest seems to come down to the fact that an informant told investigators that it was Samad that planted the bomb in Pune, rather than his brother. Apparently they look rather similar. Strangely for a man who is supposed to have carried out a major terrorist attack, he decided to travel to Dubai openly, using his normal documentation.
The charges they have actually laid against him have nothing to do with Pune, and are actually related to supplying weapons to a Hindutva terrorist group, Abhinav Bharat, who are believed to be behind a series of bombings in Gujarat and Maharashtra in September 2008. It seems unlikely that a man who works for both Hindu and Muslim extremists would be the main figure in the Pune attack. The evidence that has so far emerged suggests that he is more opportunistic supplier than fundamentalist bomber. Having been picked up once before (and released) for questioning about his brother’s activities, it could be that Samad is just paying the price for a wayward black sheep in the family. In any case, it’s clearly another gaffe on the part of the Home Minister.