Investigations into the Patna serial blasts have revealed that the module mandated to carry out the terror strike had been formed about two months ago by alleged Indian Mujahideen fugitive Mohammad Tahseen Akhtar alias Monu, a close aide of the outfit’s “co-founder” Yasin Bhatkal. The module comprised over 15 members, primarily recruited from Ranchi in Jharkhand.

Imtiaz Ansari, a resident of Dhurva in Ranchi who has been arrested by the Patna police in connection with the blasts, is believed to have told the interrogators that he came in contact with Monu around two months ago. The first meeting took place in Ranchi when, during long discourses, Ansari allegedly encouraged him to join the outfit. One of the immediate provocations for his joining the IM is said to be the Muzaffarnagar communal riots in Uttar Pradesh in August.

Through Ansari, the 23-year-old Monu recruited the other members including Ansari’s nephew Taufeeq. Monu also allegedly provided them cursory training in configuration of improvised explosive devices using nitrate-based chemicals.

The synchronised IEDs were planted by three groups on Sunday morning at the Patna railway station and in and around the Gandhi Maidan, venue of the BJP’s rally. While final reports on the bombs’ composition are awaited, preliminary findings suggest that modified chemical potassium nitrate was stuffed into metal pipes that were wrapped in carbon sheets. While electronic detonators and 9-volt batteries were used to trigger the blasts, digital clocks were linked to bomb circuits as timer devices to synchronise the explosions.

Incidentally, the use of potassium as an ingredient in crude bombs has been prevalent in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and eastern Uttar Pradesh. Potassium nitrate, a key fertilizer ingredient, is also used in crackers and gun powder.

“Not enough explosive was stuffed into the pipes. This saved hundreds of lives,” said a police officer. “Also, the accused have disclosed that their intention was only to trigger a stampede inside Gandhi Maidan where people had gathered in large numbers,”

While the hunt was on for the other suspects, investigating agencies looking for Monu were focussing on the trail he had left behind. Monu, on whom the NIA has declared a Rs.10 lakh bounty for his alleged role in the July 2011 blasts in Mumbai and the Hyderabad blasts in February, is believed to have been a part of Bihar’s Darbhanga-Madhubani module set up by Yasin Bhatkal during his visits to the State in 2009-10. Over a dozen suspected members of that module — earlier arrested by the Delhi Police Special Cell in 2011 — had reportedly identified Monu. While Bhatkal had then managed to escape to Nepal, investigators believe Monu took over the outfit’s pan-India operations.

Yasin Bhatkal, who was recently detained in Nepal and handed over to NIA, is believed to have confessed his close links with Monu whom he first met during his visits to Bihar in 2009-10. Monu went underground after Bhatkal’s arrest.

Bhatkal, now in the Special Cell custody, reportedly told his interrogators that he had no inkling of the outfit’s plans to carry out explosions in Patna. “He claims he does not know any of the suspects other than Monu, whose names have figured in the ongoing probe into the Patna blasts,” said another officer.