ibnlive » India

Jun 25, 2007 at 04:38pm IST

7/11 accused had 'pilgrimage visas'

New Delhi: Another twist in the 7/11 case - the Mumbai Police has discovered that several of the accused in the serial train blasts had obtained "pilgrimage visas" for Iran, ostensibly for visiting Shia religious sites in that country.

According to a report in PTI, the information was given to the police by passport agents and tour operators.

The statement of some of the witnesses in the bomb blasts case, recorded under Section 164 of Criminal Procedure Code before a magistrate, were opened in the special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act Court on Tuesday.

UNRAVELING 7/11: All the tour operators are on retrospect regretting having made passports for these men.

In his statement, a package tour operator said one Mushtaq approached him in 2004 with an accused - Muzammil's - passport saying that the latter was a Shia and wanted to go to Iran for the ziyarat (pilgrimage) and hence asked for making arrangements for his visa and tickets.

Accordingly, the travel agent made all arrangements but Muzammil did not join his tour.

Another travel agent said that over a period of time, the tour operators arranged for the travel of July 11 blasts suspects Tanvir Ansari, Muzammil, Zameer, Mohammed Ali Chipa and Feroze Ghaswalla along with one Zulfegar to Iran.

"People from the Shia sect visit Mashhad in Iran to pray at the mausoleum of the eighth leader of the sect Imam Raza, Qoom city where the mausoleum of his wife Fatima, and Tehran where the mausoleum of Aalim Khomeni are located," the agent told PTI.

"The authorities affix a stamp on the passports of the pilgrims based upon which he is served the holy food. No such stamps were found on the passport of Muzammil and Zameer," he added.

"I have seen the photocopies of passports of Muzammil, Zameer, Sohail, Faisal and Tanvir (all July 11 blasts suspects), but none have the stamp of the authorities. They have never been to Iran," a second operator, who was also a witness in the case, was quoted by PTI as saying.

All the tour operators are on retrospect regretting having made passports for these men, which ultimately led them to Mumbai, where they masterminded the 7/11 blasts.

The operators say that if they had known these men would use the passports for such devious means and that none of these men were Shias, they would never have made the passports for them.

Mumbai came to a shocking standstill on July 11 when serial blasts ripped through its local trains, killing 198 people and wounding over 700.