In a startling disclosure, a Lashkar-e-Toiba operative arrested from Hyderabad on May 3 has told interrogators that for four days in December 2008 he had driven President Pratibha Patil’s son Rajendra Shekhawat around the city as she paid a two-week official visit to Andhra Pradesh.
This was more than a year after the alleged Lashkar operative, Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, reportedly received a consignment of a pistol and two hand grenades concealed in a box of sweets in New Delhi.
Haq is also linked to the May 7, 2006, hand grenade blast in Hyderabad’s Odeon Cinema.
Haq has told investigators that he “worked as a driver” for the President’s son as the Head of State was paying a visit to Hyderabad.
Haq has said he was preparing to target foreigners working in companies like Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu when he was arrested. Police officials in Hyderabad questioning Haq confirmed the disclosure but did not reveal whether Rashtrapati Bhavan had been briefed.
Haq was arrested from Hyderabad’s Edi Bazaar after his telephones and e-mails were intercepted. Following the arrest, two other sleeper cells in Srinagar and Nepal were busted with sufficient leads that the “handler” of all the three operatives — part of the Lashkar’s ‘Indian Ocean’ network — was an LeT Commander based in Saudi Arabia. Haq has reportedly listed all the “exchanges” he had on planned terror strikes with his “handlers”.
Haq’s interrogation has also laid bare the relative ease with which LeT operatives like him made border crossings from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Dhaka. He has said that after being inducted into the LeT in Saudi Arabia in 2002, he was taken to Muzaffarabad for a 30-day arms training and issued arms and ammunition in Kotli, PoK. LeT “guides” later escorted him across Poonch, after which he reached Banihal on foot and then moved to Delhi and finally, Hyderabad.
The other border crossing that Haq describes is to Bangladesh in 2008, where he was called to meet his “handler” since he was delaying “execution of offence (attacks)” in Hyderabad.
His interrogation report reads, “After receiving firearms and cash at Delhi, my handler Abdul Aziz started pressurising me to execute/commit some sensational offence. As per his instructions, either I have to throw the hand-grenade in the crowd or the targeted person. I was planning to throw the hand-grenade in the crowd gathered nearby Hitech City (Hyderabad) in front of hotels or on the foreigners working in Deliotte company. Though initially I thought I alone can execute the task, I started requesting my handler to send someone in support to me…”
Haq has said that among the 25 LeT recruits with whom he got a brief arms training in Muzaffarabad was a young man from Tamil Nadu.
He has also disclosed that it was in Saudi Arabia that he was taught how to use the Internet and create e-mail IDs.
He said that while operatives like him used e-mails and accessed Internet from five specific locations in Hyderabad, LeT commanders in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia always used VoIP ( voice-over-internet-protocol) to convey instructions.