It was a few months after the first arrest of SIMI activist Muhammad Manzar Imam in 2008 Vagamon SIMI camp case in March that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) got to know of his links with the leadership of the Indian Mujahideen -- Riaz Bhatkal, Yasin Bhatkal and second-in-command Tahseen Akhtar Tehseen alias Tabrez.
A phone call made by Riaz Bhatkal from Pakistan to Yasin Bhatkal, intercepted by the NIA, revealed that Muhammad Manzar Imam was one of the top IM leaders. Earlier, Riaz had told Imam and Yasin of the arrangement made for him in Jharkhand.
The NIA had made a move to make the Imam an approver in the Vagamon case and his statement under Section 164 of the CrPC was recorded.
Later when they came to know of his wider connections, they gave up the decision.
“It is quite clear that Imam maintained connections with Yasin and Riaz. We got evidence from the call in which Riaz mentioned about Imam to Yasin. Yasin was well aware of his arrest. He, along with Tahseen Akhtar, left for Nepal on March 3, after Imam was arrested from Ranchi on the same day. After Yasin was arrested from Nepal, he was grilled regarding the IM connection with the SIMI. On this, Yasin gave information about the Imam, who was introduced by Riaz Bhatkal. Muhammad Man zar Imam had also arranged a hideout for Yasin in Jharkhand. He had arranged hideouts for Yasin in Mumbai and Ranchi after terror strikes in 2009 and 2010,” NIA sources said.
After the arrest of Yasin, the NIA had filed a petition before the NIA Special Court, Kochi, seeking his custody for interrogation over his connection with Yasin. But the court dismissed the petition stating that as the case was nearing the trial stage and chargesheet filed, the accused cannot be handed over in their custody. Further, Yasin Bhatkal was not included in the Vagamon case.
But the NIA arrested Imam after they produce a transit warrant from the NIA Special Court, stating that he is an accused in another case in New Delhi. He was taken to New Delhi and produced before the NIA Special Court which remanded him in police custody for 15 days.