Police 'clear about those involved'

MUMBAI AUG. 26. A day after the twin bomb blasts, police expected a significant breakthrough by the weekend but continue to remain tightlipped on the details of the progress, which sources said "had reached an interesting stage".

Specifics regarding the high explosive material used, the description of the accused as provided by the taxi driver who survived the Gateway of India blast, and the extent to which the criminal investigation has progressed, were not disclosed.

Based on clues from the blast sites and on eyewitness reports, police teams have been sent to Gujarat, Bihar and parts of Maharashtra.

The city police are on what is called a "high alert". The number of personnel on duty is at "its maximum possible", combing operations are on within the city and in some parts of the State, nakabandis and checks on hotels have been stepped up, and people on police records are being interrogated.

At a press conference yesterday, the city Police Commissioner, R.S. Sharma, described the blasts as "a war against the state" and said, "we are very clear about who is involved". Specifics of this were not forthcoming but the Joint Commissioner (Crime), Satya Pal Singh, told The Hindu: "The selection of the spots, the material used, the timing between the detonation of the two bombs, the timer device were all the hallmarks of a well trained, professional group."

The spots selected helped hit the tourism industry, as represented by the Gateway of India, and the gold and precious stones market, as represented by Zaveri Bazar.

"Not only were they striking out at the economy but they were also trying to create a communal divide," said Dr. Singh. The Zaveri Bazar area is a demarcator between the largely Hindu Mumbadevi area and the Muslim-dominated Pydhonie. Dr. Singh affirmed that the blasts were "not the work of a local group. The professionalism makes us suspect outside groups".

"Outside groups" are a reference to the Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamat ul Fukr, Karkul ul Mujahideen, Harkul al Jehad al Islami and Lashkar-e-Jangvi.

These are jehadi groups linked to the International Islamic Front founded by Osama bin Laden in 1998. While dismissing the twin blasts as being entirely the work of local groups, Dr. Singh does not discount the possibility of assistance from cadre of the SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India), a group outlawed by the Centre on September 21, 2001.

Rapid Action Force units are soon to be deployed in the city as a deterrent and to instil confidence in the public and erase the "fear psychosis" that Dr. Singh acknowledges has affected the people.

Accusations that the blasts are yet another example of intelligence failure will only be silenced once arrests are made. Poor policing and detection techniques were blamed and, these in turn, were seen as the natural outcome of unnecessary political interference in the Police Department.

As far as the blasts investigation is concerned, it is understood that no barriers are being put in the way of the police.


By Our Special Correspondent

MUMBAI Aug. 26. A city already stretched to its limits in every respect reacted to the blasts with palpable over-caution today.

The police control room received four calls from concerned citizens who were insistent that they had discovered potential bombs. While Monday's explosions had been in south Mumbai all the calls today came from the suburbs.

The bomb identification and disposal squads discovered each to be a hoax, ranging from an empty cardboard box to a tiffin carrier.

After the blasts yesterday, gangmen checking the railway track at 5.30 p.m along the Igatpuri-Kasara stretch found a 10 inch long rod along with foil wrapped items all surrounded by barbed wire.

Suspecting a bomb, police were called in but soon dismissed the possibility of any danger.

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