Passport agents and tour operators have told the police that many of the accused in the July 11 serial train blasts case had obtained "pilgrimage visas" for Iran, ostensibly for visting Shia religious sites in that country.
It is the case of the Anti-Terrorism Squad, the agency probing the blasts, that some of the accused had been to Pakistan via Iran to take training in arms and ammunition.
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.
In his statement, a package tour operator said one Mushtaq approached him in 2004 with Muzammil's (accused in the case) passport saying that the latter was a Shia and wanted to go to Iran for the 'ziyarat' and hence asked for making arrangements for his visa and tickets.
Accordingly, the travel agent made all arrangemnets 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 said in the statement.
The authorities affix a stamp on the passports of the pilgrims based upon which he is served the holy food, the witness said, adding no such stamps were found on the passport of Muzammil and Zameer.
"They had never gone for ziyarat in Iran," he said.
"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 for ziyarat," said the second operator.
According to the ATS, Faisal is the mastermind behind the explosions and had arranged for the training in Pakistan for all the other accused in camps run by Pakistani intelligence agency Inter Services Intelligence.
"If I had known that they are not Shias, I would not have arranged for their travel," he said.
Seven powerful explosions had rocked the first class compartments of suburban local trains in Mumbai during the evening rush hour on July 11 killing more than 185 commuters and injuring over 600.