Ahmedabad blasts mastermind nabbed, case ‘nearly cracked’ (Overall Lead)

August 16th, 2008 - 9:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Ahmedabad, Aug 16 (IANS) Claiming that the conspiracy behind last month’s serial bombings here has been “nearly cracked”, the Gujarat Police Saturday said the arrest of its mastermind and its probe into the web the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) had spun would also help crack several other terror attacks across the country. Addressing the media here, Gujarat police chief P.C. Pande said nine people had so far been arrested for their suspected involvement in the July 26 blasts in which 55 people were killed and over 150 injured.

“With the arrest of Mufti Abdul Bashr from Azamgarh (in Uttar Pradesh) today by a joint team of Gujarat Police and UP police, it is probably the first time anyone has reached the brain behind (such kind of) blasts,” Pande claimed.

“We have other leads that will take us to other states. You will have to bear with me for the details can’t be revealed now,” Pande added.

Bashr, said to be a SIMI activist and who hails from Binapara village, was arrested from Lucknow’s Moulviganj area Saturday and could provide vital clues to the serial blasts here, the police chief maintained.

Bashr, who is now being brought here, had meticulously planned the blasts, Pande said, adding: “He will be formally arrested and interrogated and the fully story will then be out.”

According to Pande, Bashr, with his oratory, “used to inspire terror activities. In April, he had held a big meeting. He had also visited Ahmedabad. By interrogating him more clues about other blasts that occurred in the country earlier could come out. We have uncovered sleeper cells successfully,” the police chief added.

“I wish to say with full pride that for the last 20 days, Gujarat Police has been progressing on its investigation. A Crime branch team headed by Ashish Bhatia (Joint Commissioner-Crime) and police forces of Vadodara, Bharuch and Surat had taken up independent investigative operations that led to the arrests of nine people.

“For the moment, I may not be able to say clearly about the various ramification of the case. Many issues are in the realm of investigation. But I assure you that we will be cracking the case,” Pande maintained.

Replying to a question about a US national being interrogated, Pande said this lead too was being probed. The IP address of a terror e-mail sent to TV news channels prior to the blasts was traced to Navi Mumbai and turned out to be that of the US national.

Navi Mumbai police say it is possible the American’s account could have been hacked into. The an e-mail has helped the security agencies arrest some people and release sketches of different suspects.

Pande also thanked the central intelligence agencies and the police forces of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Delhi for their help in unravelling the Ahmedabad case.

Pande also claimed SIMI had split into two groups of moderates and hardliners. The hardliners had dropped the ‘S’ from SIMI and now called it the Indian Mujahideen, he said.

According to Pande, the only difference between the bombs used in the Ahmedabad blasts and those that failed to go off in Surat was the timers used.

The timers used in the Ahmedabad bombs were mechanical clocks while those in Surat bombs were IC chips that malfunctioned.

“We will come out with a statement exactly why Surat bombs failed to explode,” Pande said.

He also pulled up a questioner for linking the severity of the blasts to the number of bombs used.

“Do not see the tragedy through the numbers of bombs,” he maintained.

“I request the media that even if you do not help the Gujarat Police there is no problem. But it is very unfortunate that either due to lapses on your part or due to excitement, you are projecting something which only helps desh drohis (enemies of the state),” Pande contended.

“If the police can’t tell you something as disclosing something prematurely will harm the investigation, there is a weird competition among the media to write stories based on speculation,” he said tartly.

Eight other SIMI activists had also been arrested from Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat, Pande said.

One of those arrested, Nasir, was from Gujarat and is the son of Naseemuddin who is lodged in the Sabarmati jail here, Joint Commissioner Bhatia said.

According to him, the entire operation was well planned and the SIMI activists were trained in the jungles near Ernakulam in Kerala in December 2007 and again in Gujarat in the first week of January. The second camp was conducted in the hilly Pavagadh area of Halol in Panchmahals district

At the Ernakulam camp, Bhatia said, the activists were trained in planting cycle bombs and also put through a regimen of rock climbing and swimming, and were taught how to survive in the jungle and how to throw the police off track if caught.

The activists were also given pseudonyms, Bhatia said, adding that a bomb-making expert, identified as Altaf Subhan, was also present at the camp. Intelligence agencies believe at least some of those trained were involved in the Jaipur blasts in May.

Two or three meetings were held in Ahmedabad and Vadodara after the Halol camp to plan the blasts here, Bhatia said.

According to the officer, a man named Yusuf Mansuri of the Bapunagar neighbourhood here had played a key role in the blasts by providing facilities at his home. Mansuri is yet to be caught.

A man named Kalimuddin who brought bomb materials from Madhya Pradesh and helped in making bombs is also at large, Bhatia said.

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