Pune/Mumbai: A suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative, named in three terror cases, was on Friday allegedly strangled to death inside the high security Yerwada Central Jail here by inmates.
Maharashtra Government promptly acted by suspending Jail Superintendent S V Khatavkar and ordering a CID probe into the murder of Mohammad Qateel Siddiqui, who was named in Bangalore stadium blast, Delhi Jama Masjid firing case and an abortive attempt to bomb a temple in Pune.
The 26-year-old, who was found dead in his cell, had been remanded to judicial custody by a court here in a case filed by Maharashtra ATS in which he was accused of attempting to plant a bomb at the famous Shrimant Dagdusheth Halwai Ganapti Temple in the heart of Pune in 2010.
"In a pre-planned crime, Qateel, a close of aide of the home-grown terror outfit`s top operative Yasin Bhatkal, was strangled to death with the string of an undergarment by inmates for being anti-national," police sources said.
Preliminary probe blamed two inmates, Sharad Mohol and Alok Bhalerao, for the murder following a brawl, but there was no official confirmation of it. Both Mohol and Bhalerao are facing charges under MCOCA and lodged in the jail since February this year.
"We are not in a position to confirm anything and the circumstances surrounding the murder are being investigated," a police officer attached to Yerwada Police Station said.
Qateel, who had allegedly planned to bomb the temple on February 13, 2010 at Bhatkal`s instructions, was nabbed by Delhi Police in Jama Masjid firing case in November last year.
Qateel had planned the attack on the same day when another group planted a bomb at the German Bakery in Pune that killed 17 people, including foreign nationals, and injured at least 60 others. The ATS is yet to file a charge sheet in the temple terror case.
Qateel had a hearing in the Pune court today 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, the sources said.
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, according to police.
All the cases in which Qateel was allegedly involved took place in 2010.
Two low-intensity explosions near a packed Chinnaswamy stadium less than an hour before an IPL match on April 17, 2010, had left 15 persons, including five security men, injured.
Unidentified gunmen on a motorbike had opened fire on Taiwanese tourists outside Old Delhi`s Jama Masjid in September 2010. Two persons were injured in the firing.