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Mumbai blasts: Cops unmask suspected Opera House bomber

Posted by on July 17, 2011 0 Comment

Police have zeroed in on a suspect at the site of the Opera House bombing after scanning the CCTV images they have retrieved from the 13/7 site. Investigators said the movements of one particular man, who locals and office-goers at the diamond-trading hub did not recognize, appear suspicious and they have prepared a sketch of him. The sketch has been sent to security agencies across the country, but won’t be released to the public so that investigations are not hampered.

Eleven people died in the Opera House blast in Wednesday’s triple bombing. Another eight died at Zaveri Bazar.

Investigators said the Opera House suspect is seen roaming the area for around two to three hours before the blast. “With the help of eyewitnesses and locals we are trying to identify individuals in the images. One such person has not been identified by the locals. We have prepared a sketch of this man. We have good leads with us,” said Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Rakesh Maria.

The police are also focusing on 15 faces seen in CCTV images taken from the Zaveri Bazar blast site as locals, shopkeepers there could not recognize them.

Maharashtra ATS teams also fanned out to places like Gujarat, Bengal and Bhatkal in Karnataka to follow up clues.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat police believe they may have previously overlooked clues to the Mumbai blasts in emails sent by an arrested Indian Mujahideen (IM) member. The emails of Danish Riyaz, 29, who was arrested nearly 20 days before the Mumbai blasts, appear innocuous, but may have hidden information that could provide leads, said investigators. Danish was held for the July 26, 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts.

The Ahmedabad crime branch is looking for leads in four emails sent by Danish to IM top brass, including Abdus Subhan alias Tauqeer, Manzhar Chaudhary, Abu Faisal and Mujeeb Sheikh. TOI reported on Saturday that Faisal and Sheikh were caught by the ATS recently and were a focal point of the investigation. Investigators believe that Mujeeb may know the identity of the five to six bombers. The Gujarat police have also found the name of Haroon, who is from Kolkata and a suspect in the Mumbai blasts, in Danish’s mailing list.

When Danish was first probed, the emails didn’t make sense, but now the Ahmedabad crime branch is taking help from central agencies to read the fine print. The police suspect he knows the whereabouts of Tauqeer and Chaudhary. Tauqeer, who allegedly masterminded the Ahmedabad blasts, is said to be at the UP-Nepal border. The Gujarat police suspect that youths from Azamgarh, UP, were also used in the 13/7 blasts and have sent a team there. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) interrogated Danish two days ago and is sure that Faisal and Sheikh know about the Mumbai attacks. Faisal practises alternate medicine in Indore, MP, and is Danish’s senior in the IM. Sheikh belongs to Juhapura, Ahmedabad.

Interestingly, 35 detonators and explosive substances, including ammonium nitrate, went missing from the Silvassa police’s custody in Gujarat in May-June. The equipment had been seized from suspects.

Maharashtra ATS teams have left for various locations, like Gujarat, West Bengal, Bhopal, Pune, Sarai Mir in Uttar Pradesh, Bhatkal in Karnataka, Delhi and so on. “The NIA and other central agencies are also assisting the probe,” said Maria at a press briefing on Saturday. TOI

Maria has sought details of two associates of Abdullah, a Kolkata resident, from West Bengal Special Task Force chief, Rajib Kumar. The two, like Abdullah, are missing. Maria was tightlipped when asked whether there was local support or if the Mumbai underworld played a role in the blasts.

“All three bombs were of high intensity,” he said. He said three digital timed devices were used in the bombs. “We still don’t know whether a cellular phone was used to trigger the bombs. A forensic report is awaited,” he added. “We are ruling out the possibility of a suicide bomber.”

On the explosives used, he said, “The strong presence of ammonium nitrate has been found but we are trying to find out the other ingredients.” Sources said that TNT, which has been used in blasts in India, could have been used along with ammonium nitrate. Sources said that if TNT was mixed with ammonium nitrate, it would suggest good skills in bomb making. It is learnt that several police teams are being helped by “neutralized” IM and Simi members. They are helping police visit suspects across the country. It is learnt that at least 10 neutralized IM or Simi members are assisting the police.

A joint Mumbai ATS and crime branch team returned empty handed from Indore on Saturday morning. The team had questioned eight suspected Simi members. “Five of them are still in jail while three have been granted bail,” said an ATS source.

At least six teams are scanning the CCTV footage. “It’s a voluminous and tedious process,” said Maria. An ATS officer said, “We are working on all unidentified people. Each CCTV frame has more than six to seven people at a time and we have to check the whole day’s CCTV images.”

“The forensic experts have collected debris that contain metal, which we suspect was part of containers used to store and transport the bombs…. However, it’s too early to say whether they were tiffin boxes,” Maria said. The forensic experts said the metal pieces found at the three sites are similar, but tiny. Forensic experts are yet to conclude whether the metal is steel or aluminum. The Zaveri Bazar blast took place outside a scrap shop, which already had a lot of metal pieces.

“Several motorcycles and scooters were recovered from the spots and the owners are being called and verified. Investigators are still working on one scooter which has not been claimed,” said Maria.

Phone interceptions are on and over a hundred new phones are under surveillance. The police are also examining two calls made after the blasts from Jalna and Aurangabad districts to the police control room. Forensic experts and investigators will be recreating the blast scenes to verify the intensity of the blasts. TOI

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