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I was Malegaon mastermind,

admits Lt-Col

7 Nov 2008, 0102 hrs IST, Mateen Hafeez, TNN



A blast victim in September 2006 (File Photo)


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Teesta Setalvad speaking with the media in Malegaon on

October 20, 2008. Along with Justice Kolse Patil she visited Malegaon as part of a fact finding team after the September 29, blast. By October 23, it was reported that the blast in Malegaon had allegedly been carried by people linked with Hindu Militant group.




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Lieutenant-Colonel Purohit, the first serving officer of the Indian Army to be arrested in connection with a terror bomb attack, has confessed to being mastermind of the Malegaon blast. The 37-year-old officer reportedly told police he had mapped the conspiracy and provided the explosive for the for the September 29 'revenge' attack which killed six people.

It is learnt that Purohit, who was arrested on November 5, admitted to supplying the deadly RDX and weapons to members of the Abhinav Bharat, a radical Hindu outfit. Sources said the Mumbai's Anti-Terrorism Squad was planning to question another serving army officer in this connection whose name cropped up during Purohit's interrogation. However, the confessional statement given to the police is not admissible in court.

Sources said Purohit was conclusively cornered after he was confronted with telephone records that showed his links with another accused, retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay. "I am the mastermind of the blast. I arranged for the RDX and weapons but I can't understand how the weapons reached Abhinav Bharat members," sources quoted Purohit as telling police. Abhinav Bharat is the Hindu extremist group which wanted to avenge the terror attacks by Islamist groups. Several members of the group had links with other saffron outfits.

While no anti-terrorism squad (ATS) officer was willing to comment on the reported confession, ATS spokesperson Dinesh Agrawala said for the record, "It's not correct."

He may now be cooling his heels in detention, but Purohit was an accomplished athlete during his college days. He was a national-level waterpolo player and had also won a state-level weightlifting competition.

Described as very religious, simple, patriotic but very sensitive, Purohit hails from a middle class Brahmin family in Pune. He was advised by his relatives and well-wishers to join the Army to serve the nation. He made up his mind early and opted for the National Cadet Corps (NCC) during his schooling.

Purohit studied at Abhinav Vidyalay at Karve Road from class I till his matriculation. After securing a distinction in his class X exams, he studied t Brahan Maharashtra College of Commerce (BMCC), graduating with a commerce degree. He then did his masters in catering technology from the Personnel Management College.

Purohit appeared for the Combined Defence Service Examination in 1992 and cleared it in the first attempt. "In October 1993, Purohit began his probation and was appointed second lieutenant in the Army. In October 1994, he was given his first posting in Assam. He worked there till January 1995 and was then transferred to Manipur where he worked till March 1995," said a senior ATS officer.

Purohit was then posted to Nagaland where he was given his first promotion as captain in 1996 and worked there till 1997. "From August 1997 to May 1999, Purohit was posted in Pune," said an officer. Purohit was transferred to Rajasthan in May 1999 and worked there till November. He was again posted to Pune in 1999 and worked there for next one year. During this tenure, he was promoted as a major and transferred to the intelligence wing.

Police sources said that between 2000 and January 2005, Purohit was posted in Jammu and Kashmir and worked in Kupwara, Anantnag and Badgaon. "He has done a lot of good work in J&K and at Amarnath. He never disclosed any secrets to anyone," said one of his acquaintances in Pune.

Sources said between February and September 2005, Purohit was in Deolali, near Nashik and that's when he came in touch with Major (retd) Ramesh Upadhyay, now

behind bars in the blast case. Purohit, a founder-member of Abhinav Bharat, used the Nashik stint to fraternise with the extremists in various radical Hindu outfits and to draw them into Abhinav Bharat. Being in the Army, Purohit delivered lectures for Abhinav Bharat and recruited youngsters in the outfit which has around 5,000 members across the country today.

The ATS suspect that Purohit trained youngsters in handling explosives. "He imparted training in assembling explosive at Sinhgarh in Pune to the recruits," public prosecutor Ajay Misar told the court.

Purohit was posted at the Army Education Corps Training College and Centre at Panchmarhi in Madhya Pradesh in October 2007, where he pursued a course in Arabic. The Army promoted him to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in April this year. Soon after his promotion, the police sources said, he attended a meeting on April 16 at the Bhonsala military school in Nashik where other Malegaon blast accused were also present.

"Since he is a senior
Army officer, he could be the source for the RDX, used in the bomb that went off in the textile town," said an officer. Police said that it had evidence that Purohit distributed money to several people through his organisation. "The financial transactions are through hawala as well," said an officer who is probing Purohit's hawala links.




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