Photographs: Reuters Vicky Nanjappa
Those involved in the probe say everyone's a suspect -- the Indian Mujahideen, the Students Islamic Movement of India, the Harkat-ul-Jihadi -- and the role of each of these outfits is under scrutiny.The probe is being led by the National Investigating Agency and this case is a test of sorts for investigators.
The case of Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Headley was considered to the NIA's biggest assignment, but it could be argued that most of the leads in that case were provided by the United States. However, in the Delhi high court blast case the NIA had to begin investigations from scratch and at the same time will coordinate with other security agencies working on the case.
'Too early to pinpoint who carried out blast'
The SIMI in particular may avoid attacking the judiciary since they are battling a case seeking a lift on a ban on the outfit. The IM have been making efforts to regroup and would they want to draw heat at the moment?
The HuJI on the other hand does appear to have a motive -- they are setting up their operations and building a network in India. But investigators wonder if they would carry out an operation on a small scale and draw attention of security agencies?
Sources both in the NIA as well as the Intelligence Bureau have drawn a conclusion that every attack need not necessarily have a motive. "At the moment, we see the strike as a distraction attack," said an investigator. But then again who would want to create a distraction?
Political motive behind Delhi HC blast?
"Such attacks have always managed to divert attention from political crisis. One cannot conclude that the blast was politically motivated, but the angle needs to be explored," said a source.
So does this leave investigators groping in the dark? A source from the IB said it's too early to criticise probe agencies. Finding clues is time consuming.
The fact however remains that the Varanasi blast, the 13/7 Mumbai bombings and now the Delhi HC blast continue to remain unsolved. While conducting the investigations into these three attacks what investigators have realised is that terror modules are possibly asleep at the moment. The local police have been unable to find a direct link to any of the attacks. There have been a spate of arrests following the strikes, but nothing conclusive has come out of them.
Was PETN used in the blast?
There have been no leads in Delhi HC blast case and to add to it there is a lot of confusion regarding the substance used in the explosive that went off at Gate No 5. Forensic teams have given contradicting versions and they are now finding it difficult to trace pentaerythritol tetranitrate, which they first claimed was used in the bomb.
However, the investigating team has sent the traces for another round of sampling since it is hard to detect PETN because of its plastic nature. They are meanwhile working on possible leads they can gather from fragments of explosives found at the blast site. They are trying to trace the source of PETN and ammonium nitrate used in the bomb.
Who funded the attack?
Take for instance the Bengaluru serial blasts in which nine bombs were used. According to T Nasir, the prime accused in the ase, the operation cost him just Rs 40,000. The possibility of money being sourced locally in the Delhi case cannot be ruled out, say police sources.
Investigating agencies are also looking for leads outside the country and are in touch with their counterparts in the Gulf. Investigators believe that some SIMI and the IM operatives are holed up in Gulf nations. Since the Varanasi blast, the IB has been on the look out for Assadullah Akthar, but in vain. There is also a lookout notice issued against 13 other IM operatives, who have been reported missing for two years.
In addition to this, the IB has been in touch with the various intelligence agencies in the US and Russia and are trying to track if there is any movement of terrorists overseas.
'Slack intelligence gathering gives terrorists advantage'
Security experts say that it is essential that the three blast cases since the Varanasi attack be cracked. A senior police official from Maharashtra pointed out that intelligence gathering is weak. "It is not sufficient to look for larger leads alone. The fact that no suspicious movement has been gathered from the place of the attack shows that sources doing groundwork are weak. Investigators lack clarity and this gives terror outfits an advantage," he said.
There is a need for collective intelligence gathering and the sharing of the same between states apart from strengthening local intelligence, the official also pointed out.