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Blast investigations: A series of blunders?

Last updated on: September 30, 2011 16:46 IST

Blast investigations: A series of blunders?

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Vicky Nanjappa takes a look at the series of the blasts over the past one-and-a-half years, and observes investigators overlooked many a lead, and says the task ahead is a tough.

Even though today, investigators have at least some leads on Indian Mujahideen's Bullet 313 Force, they do realise that this outfit has taken them on a ride for quite sometime, which eventually led to a series of bombings, that went unsolved.

The blast outside Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore during the Indian Premier league two years ago was first sign that the IM was alive and kicking.

While it is true that the IM was down due to lack of funds and operatives, what the police missed after the Chinnaswamy blasts was that Yasin Bhatkal, who was a key operative, and was very much in Karnataka. He managed to give the cops a slip.

Yasin, who hails from the coastal town of Bhatkal, was not a new name in the outfit, since there was plenty of intelligence on him.

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Image: The bomb squad near gate no. 12 at Chinnaswamy Stadium
Photographs: KPN photos
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Yasin Bhatkal kept giving the cops the slip

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Despite this fact, he continued to operate in Chickmagalur in Karnataka and set up a unit in the forest area. This unit helped the IM carry out the Chinnaswamy blasts.

But ironically, he managed to give the slip after the blast, and till date is shown in police records as wanted.

In fact, Riyaz and Iqbal, his brothers, had operated mainly out of Chickmagalur before fleeing India three years ago, and strangely enough, the police were unable to find the necessary leads regarding Yasin who also used the same den.

The fact that he was never out of the country was evident during the German Bakery blasts at Pune in which his name surfaced again.

It was only after interrogation of some suspects and some footage obtained by the police, that police realised that Yasin had played a key role in this attack also.

However, once again, Yasin slipped away again, and according to the IB he has crossed over into Pakistan.

The Chinnaswamy and Pune blasts marked the IM's return. Although not as lethal as before, they proved that they had the capabilities to carry out attacks at will.

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Image: File photo of IM founder Riyaz Bhatkal

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The cops have no one to blame but themselves

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After these two blasts, there was a lull before they struck again at Varanasi a year ago. It was considered to be a hurried operation, but managed to spruce up the cadres who continued to operate in Delhi and Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh.

The IM had found it hard to recruit newer cadres due to a lull in activity. However, after these blasts they did manage to get their shop running once again.

All through, the cops can blame themselves for not acting fast enough, despite having enough leads. While Yasin can be considered to be one big blunder, the other is another key IM operative, Danish Riyaz's interrogation.

They interrogated him for days but were never able to find out what exactly the IM was up to next. Despite being grilled he did manage to dodge investigators first about the name of the new outfit and also about its plans.

He constantly told the police that there was a new outfit by the name Ansarul Muslimeen. He further stated that this outfit was directly linked to Lashkar-e-Tayiba, and had nothing to do with the IM.

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Image: Onlookers stand at the site of a blast in Varanasi
Photographs: Reuters
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The cat and mouse game will continue: IB

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Despite knowing fully-well about Yasin, he remained mum, which again became a stumbling block for the probe. With regard to the IM, he constantly maintained that it was dismantled, and there was no way in which they could have regrouped.

He spoke about the lack of funds and in fact claimed that none of the cadres were interested in carrying on terror activities. He further misled the police regarding the whereabouts of Tauqeer also known as Abdus Subhan.

He told them once that Tauqeer was in Ranchi and later said that he must have crossed over the border.

The IB says that this cat and mouse game will continue, and it is necessary for the cops to watch the movements these operatives very closely.

"The blasts (Chinnaswamy and Delhi) are all attempts to test the waters. As has been pointed out before there is a need for these groups to carry out such activity for the sake of funds and recruitments," said a source.

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Image: Commandos and police officers stand guard near the site of a bomb blast outside Delhi HC
Photographs: Reuters
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The unanswered questions will remain

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"Moreover, there is a lot of talk about the Karachi Project aimed directly at India and key operatives of the IM such as Amir Reza Khan and the rest are in constant talks regarding the same. Although this is a plan hatched in Pakistan, they are looking for a very strong homegrown outfit to carry out this attack, and they find their answer in the IM," he added.

The past two years have seen four blasts orchestrated by the IM. These may be fringe elements, but with each blast, they have only improved their strategy, which itself is a good enough indication that they are setting up shop once again.

The blasts have also generated a keen interest in the sympathisers of the group to push for more funds.

The police may or may not crack the four cases in totality and there will be a lot of unanswered questions. The road ahead is tough since the police today find that there are many more modules which have come up, and their operatives too are increasing with each passing day.

"The most important aspect of the probe would be to go back to the likes of Chotu, Sadiq Shaikh Danish Riyaz among others who can give a better picture of what is in store," said an IB source.


Image: A policeman stands guard at Zaveri Bazaar in Mumbai

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