Wanted in blasts, Riyaz Bhatkal and Shahrukh may be same man

Among the names that cropped up after the recent arrests of the alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) modules was Shahrukh and Riyaz Bhatkal. Shahrukh is alleged to have supplied the explosives for the recent serial blasts across the country, while Bhatkal is suspected to have "masterminded" the blasts along with Atif Ameen, Mohammad Sadiq and Amir Reza Khan. Now, investigating agencies suspect that both Shahrukh and Bhatkal may be the same person.

Sources said that since his name was linked to the 1993 Mumbai blasts, Bhatkal may have used the name Shahrukh to protect his identity.

Investigating officials point out that both Bhatkal and Shahrukh are linked to Karnataka. Shahrukh is reported to have sourced the explosives for the Delhi, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Uttar Pradesh blasts from Karnataka. Bhatkal, who is reported to be a founder member of IM, is originally a resident of Karnataka and has a good network there.

Among the five suspected IM operatives arrested by the Delhi Police, Mohammad Saif is said to have met Shahrukh in Udupi. However, he does not know Bhatkal.

Bhatkal, also called Roshan Khan, has several criminal cases against him in Mumbai as a member of the Fazlu Rehman gang. In the early '90s, Bhatkal, who was earlier employed as an engineer with a garment unit and tannery, reportedly started supplying counterfeit currency, and then got involved in hawala operations. He is suspected to have distributed a lot of fake currency in Mumbai, where he then established contact with the underworld.

"For the 1993 blasts, he arranged money from Pakistan through hawala channels. But he could not be arrested," said an official.

Subsequently, Bhatkal went underground for many years, only to surface as Shahrukh now, according to the police.

Officials also suspect an underworld link to the blasts. "Since Bhatkal's name came up in the Mumbai blasts, it is evident that he is an important financial link for the underworld," said a source.

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