Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Hubli were on radar
The death toll in Thursday’s twin blasts in Hyderabad rose to 16 on Friday and the condition of five of the 117 injured remained critical, even as investigators intensified efforts to achieve a breakthrough and the police found a detonator at one of the sites.
Thousands of onlookers, besides political leaders, continued to throng the blast sites at Dilsukhnagar, a bustling area in the south-eastern parts of Hyderabad.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, accompanied by Andhra Pradesh Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan and Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, visited the sites on Friday to get firsthand information about the first terror strike in the country after Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru was executed.
Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said initial leads into the attack pointed to a possible involvement of the Indian Mujahideen as the blasts carried their trademark signature.
Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Coimbatore and Hubli, and Gujarat and other parts of Maharashtra were specifically alerted by Central intelligence agencies that terror groups were planning to launch attacks in retaliation to the hanging of Guru, the sources said.
The entire modus operandi of the blasts such as the use of bicycle, trigger, ammonium nitrate and shrapnels and coordinated attacks in crowded places all pointed to the Indian Mujahideen and the investigating agencies were looking into various terror modules having links to Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh and Darbhanga in Bihar, the sources said.
The agencies were trying to find out whether the attack was planned just after Guru’s hanging, as carrying out a coordinated strike within a few days was a difficult task, the sources said.
The MHA and investigating agencies had also taken notice of threats issued to India by the United Jihad Council, a group of various Pakistan-based terror outfits, at its conference held last week in Islamabad to pay tributes to Guru, where they reportedly resolved to “avenge” his hanging.
Top militants of the banned anti-India militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed had pledged to step up their anti-India activities after the execution of Ajmal Kasab and Guru.
Amid the chanting of slogans, media reports said, top leaders of the LeT, JeM, Al-Badr Mujahideen, Jamiatul-Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen made anti-India speeches. United Jihad Council chief Syed Salahuddin, who also heads the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, asked all group members to step up attacks against India, while senior JeM leader Mufti Asghar reportedly said that “we know how to take revenge and we will take revenge.”
The MHA sources said they were trying to find out whether any sleeper module was activated after this meeting to carry out attacks.
A general alert was sent to all the States after the hanging of Kasab, but after the execution of Guru, more specific alerts were sent to the five cities and the two States.
Besides a general advisory sent to all the States on February 19, the specific information was shared with the five cities and two States on February 21.
Though the alerts were not definitive and did not specify the groups involved or possible targets, the police chiefs of these cities were asked to step up vigil. Similarly, other advisories talked about the LeT, JeM, Hizb and the Indian Mujahideen planning to launch terror attacks.