NATIONAL

Huge explosives' haul near Thane

MUMBAI Oct. 22. A top-level inter-departmental meeting is to be held in the next few days to draw up norms for storing and transporting explosive material in Maharashtra given that a lot of it is illegally floating around.

Last night, the Thane rural police seized 750 kg of ammonium nitrate and 700 detonators from a truck.

The explosives, in a gunny bag hidden under 15 bags of onions, were being transported from Parner in Ahmednagar district to Vasai near here.

Four persons, including one who said that he had sought permission to quarry but not transport such material covered under the Indian Explosives Act, have been arrested.

On October 6, the Thane police had found 180 kg of ammonium nitrate, 200 simple fuses and 250 electronic triggers meant for quarrying a long distance from any quarry.

The four arrests were for the violation of the Explosives Act, but police are also investigating the possible intent of their use given that have been several explosions in Mumbai since December 2002.

"We are not taking it at mere face value," an official said. "Far too much of it is floating around. We need to examine this entirely because the ramifications are serious. Even if it is for only quarrying, it can fall into the wrong hands if proper monitoring is not done," he added.

At a press conference today, the Deputy Chief Minister, Chhagan Bhujbal, who deals with Home Affairs, said, "we want to see how to keep a tight control on explosives. As of now, what was found last night was only unauthorised carriage."

Today, a crude, `low intensity' explosive device was found in a garbage heap in Khadkeswar, Aurangabad, close to the site of the October 19 blast there. It was later `defused'.

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