Mohammad Qateel Siddiqui, a member of the Indian Mujahideen operative who was being probed for his role in in planting a bomb outside a temple in Pune and named in the Bangalore stadium blast, was found murdered in his prison cell, Yerwada Central Jail, on Friday.
Mohammad Qateel Siddiqui was suspected to have been strangled following a brawl with some yet to be identified fellow inmates. “Qateel was murdered in the jail,” said a senior Maharashtra ATS official. Jailed inmates Sharad Hiraman Mohol and Alok Bhalerao were lodged in the Anda Cell of Yerawada Jail along with Siddiqui. They were let out at 9.30 am for a bath, which is when the two strangled him with their pyjama chord. Both the accused were in Anda Cell since Feburary 2012 under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.They confessed that they killed Qateel because he indulged in anti-national activities.
Two low-intensity explosions near a packed Chinnaswamy cricket stadium less than an hour before an IPL match on April 17, 2010, had left 15 persons, including five security men injured. Qateel, according to ATS sources, had also made a failed attempt to carry out terror strike by planting a bomb outside Shrimant Dagdusheth Halwai Ganapti Temple in Pune.
He was arrested in November last year by the Delhi Police. Those involved in the murder and motive behind the incident was not immediately known, sources said.
State Home Minister R R Patil announced a CID probe into the death of Siddiqui and ordered suspension of jail superintendent S V Khatavkar. Investigators are probing other possible reasons, including whether it was a hit job by IM to silence Siddiqui and prevent him from squealing about the terror group’s plans and the whereabouts of the main leaders.
Qateel’s wife Fatima, who is eight months pregnant with their second child and currently residing in Delhi, has called for justice. “My husband is not a terrorist. I know the man I married. He was a good worker. He didn’t deserve to die this way,” she told the Indian Express. Meanwhile Shakeel, Qateel Siddiqui’s brother has alleged that no one from the jail administration or the Maharashtra police had initially informed the family that Qateel had been killed. His family only came to know of his death through media reports.”It seems all this while my brother was lodged in Pune jail. Media reports suggest that he was strangled with a pyjama string, which is shocking. The circumstances in which he was killed smack of a well-planned conspiracy to eliminate my brother,” said Shakeel.”
Ironically, Qateel had a hearing in the Pune court on Friday where the ATS was to inform the Magistrate that the probe in the temple case was over and the IM operative could be handed over to the Delhi Police.
After Jama Masjid’s case, Qateel was arrested for the blast outside Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy cricket stadium. “Qateel was in Delhi Police Custody when Maharashtra ATS approached a Delhi court seeking his transit remand in the temple terror conspiracy case,” police said.
On May 3, Maharashtra ATS obtained Qateel’s custody. On May 31, he was sent to Yerwada Jail, where he was lodged in one of the 15 “anda” cells (egg-shaped cell), police said. Usually, Yerwada Jail authorities allow inmates of the “anda” cells to come out and get exposure to sunlight in the premises between 9.45 am to 11.45 am daily. “The murder took place in these two hours,” a source said, adding “Mohol and Qateel were used to play chess together sometimes.”
Qateel, who hailed from Samastipur in Bihar, was allegedly indoctrinated by Bhatkal in 2008. He had been to Delhi, Mumbai and Pune on Bhatkal’s instructions. All the cases in which Qateel was allegedly involved took place in 2010.
Following Siddiqui’s killing, security has been beefed up for Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Qasab, the lone surviving terrorist of 26/11 lodged in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Central Jail.
With inputs from PTI