After the twin blasts, life is limping back to normalcy in Hyderabad even as investigators are left in a maze of leads with indications that Indian Mujahideen terror group’s head Yasin Bhatkal may have been personally present in the city Feb 21 when the explosions killed 16 people and injured over 100 at crowded Dilsukhnagar area.
The probe’s dimension has continued to spread beyond Hyderabad to Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi and Bihar, while Indian Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has called the terror strike retaliation for the government’s decision to hang Kashmiri terror convict, Afzal Guru, for the brazen attack on parliament in 2001.
Sadly, the battle against terrorism in India continues to be mired in partisan politics and posturing. The Hyderabad blasts have revived the debate over the creation of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) that has been the victim of parochial agendas. The government has been quick to leverage the Hyderabad blasts to make a renewed case for a central counter-terrorism body. India’s chief opposition the BJP, has, however, refused to bite the bait.
The NCTC initiative has been languishing since March 2012, when it could not come into force despite a central notification on the issue, after various state governments dismissed it as ‘anti-constitutional’ and argued that it ran contrary to the federal ethos of the Indian government.
The BJP has accused the government of “playing politics with the idea of security”. “The NCTC debate should not be raked up by the Congress at this time. NCTC was a skewed bill. It was giving powers to Intelligence Bureau to go on arresting people. This is never done in democratic setup, it happens only in dictatorships,” says BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar
Meanwhile, Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anurag Sharma says that no one had been arrested yet even as investigators with the help of experts scanned the CCTV video footage, which reportedly captured the images of two suspects who planted bombs on bicycles.
Indian Mujahideen (IM), suspected to be behind the carnage, is a group of tech-savvy students, criminals and religious activists who over the last decade have acquired the capability to strike at will with explosives that are getting deadlier and sophistiacated by the day.
The 2005 serial blasts, the 2006 Mumbai train attacks, the 2007 Uttar Pradesh courts’ attack, the 2008 attacks in Jaipur and Ahmedabad and the Mumbai serial blasts 2011 are part of the bloody footprint of the home-grown Indian terror outfit, say Indian intelligence officials.
On Feb 24, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also visited the scenes of the carnage here and also met the injured in a bid to lend a healing touch to victims of the terror attack.
Security at the Buddhist Mahabodhi Temple in Bihar’s Gaya district and the national capital New Delhi are on an alert following revelations by jailed IM operatives that their colleagues had earlier surveyed the cities to identify scope for suicide attacks. Delhi cops are also on an alert following leads that suspected IM operatives may have already sneaked into the city and lying low.
Federal investigators say there are confirmations that the IM aspired to raise a suicide attack squad, similar to the Taliban in Afghanistan, for more lethal strikes. The plan is believed to have received a setback after the chief operative who was tasked to head the mission, Atif Ameen, was killed in a shootout by police in Delhi last year.
The IM in its early days in 2001 was headed by criminal Asif Reza Khan who is suspected to have arranged over $600,000 for Mohammad Atta, who led the the 9/11 hijackers, by collecting ransom from an abducted businessman’s family in Kolkata.
There was also some speculation over the arrest of a Somalian and a Hyderabadi youth Bihar while they were allegedly trying to illegally sneak into Nepal. Senior district police officers refused to link of the duo with the twin blasts in Hyderabad despite the suspicion that the two had landed in Raxual in Bihar by train from New Delhi after traveling from Hyderabad to the national capital..
Central Intelligence and Military Intelligence officials along with the state police have questioned the two. One of them had driving license obtained in Hyderabad. However, the inquiries at the address shown on driving license revealed that it was obtained by furnishing false address.
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