“It appears to be the handiwork of pro-LTTE elements,” says IG
Passengers of the Kumbakonam-Chennai Rockfort Express had a narrow escape in the early hours of Saturday as the train, proceeding cautiously after an alert, stopped just short of the spot where the track had been blasted by suspected sympathisers of the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
A metre-long portion of the track had been blown up with a high-power gel-type explosive device ignited by electric power at Sithani, about 25 km from here.
Earlier, the Salem-Chennai Egmore Express passed the section 35 minutes prior to the blast. Its guard, T. Rajasekaran, alerted the station master at Perani through walkie-talkie after he heard an “unusual sound” and felt a “heavy jerk” at 2.08 a.m.
Immediately, railway authorities directed the Rockfort Express, which was following the Salem train, to proceed slowly. Driver Gopinath noticed the damage and averted a certain disaster.
At least a couple of concrete sleepers were fully damaged and an 80-cm. crater was found on the track. The ballast and the sleepers were found strewn all over.
Pamphlets decrying the visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to India were found scattered at the spot.
“We condemn the visit of racist Mahinda Rajapaksa to India, and, the Central and Tamil Nadu governments that joined hands with him in the annihilation of the Tamil race in Sri Lanka. If the Tamils keep quiet any longer, they will not understand our silent anguish — Younger Brothers of Honourable Prabakaran,” the pamphlets read.
The explosive device was reportedly linked to a wire running through a farm and attached to the junction box of an electric post situated about 100 metres from the track. Two pieces of electric wire were found lying near the open farm well.
Inspector-General of Police (Intelligence) M.S. Jaffar Sait said someone must have been sitting at a visible distance and operating the detonator. “It appears to be the handiwork of some pro-LTTE elements. The ‘Q' Branch CID has formed special teams to investigate the case,” he said.
In a statement, Director- General of Police Letika Saran ruled out the involvement of Maoists. She said locally available explosive substances were used to cause the blast. Security was enhanced at railway stations and in trains. Train services were disrupted for about seven hours.