x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

India arrests most-wanted militant near east border

Yasin Bhatkal, one of India's most-wanted men and the alleged co-founder of a militant group, the Indian Mujahideen, blamed for killing hundreds in a string of attacks.

NEW DELHI // Yasin Bhatkal, one of India's most-wanted men and the alleged co-founder of a militant group, the Indian Mujahideen, blamed for killing hundreds in a string of attacks.

Bhatkal, who is believed to be in his 30s, was arrested near the porous border with Nepal and is in police custody in the northern state of Bihar, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said.

"He is being interrogated," Mr Shinde said. "I cannot disclose which intelligence agencies were involved."

The banned Indian Mujahideen came to public attention in November 2007 following a series of blasts in Uttar Pradesh state. It is accused of a number of attacks since, including ones in Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi and Pune.

The group is thought to lead a network of home-grown militant groups that have links to the powerful Pakistan-based Lashkar-i-Taiba (LiT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed militant organisations.

Bhatkal was named as a co-conspirator over an attack on the German Bakery restaurant in Pune in 2010, in which a bomb placed in a rucksack killed 17 people including five foreigners.

Reports said Bhatkal was captured on CCTV footage in the restaurant planting the bomb shortly before the blast.

His arrest on Wednesday was another success for the Indian security forces following the detention earlier this month of an alleged top militant, Abdul Karim Tunda, who is thought to be a senior member of the LiT.

It is not known if the two arrests were linked, but Tunda, who was also arrested near the Nepal border, has been cooperating with police, according to newspaper reports.

The former home secretary, RK Singh, said security forces had been working for years to catch Bhatkal, whom he called "one of the most active terrorists in the region".

Bhatkal, from the southern state of Karnataka, was arrested in 2008 in the city of Kolkata but was able to flee after being granted bail by officers who were unaware of his identity, the Times of India reported.