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Mumbai blasts: Investigators question 600 in 30 days. Result: 0

Saturday, 13 August 2011 - 10:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

On July 13, three bombs went off at Zaveri Bazaar, Opera House and Dadar. A month has passed since, but apart from a few false alarms, the multi-agency nationwide investigation is wading in a dark pit.

On July 13, three bombs went off at Zaveri Bazaar, Opera House and Dadar. A month has passed since, but apart from a few false alarms, the multi-agency nationwide investigation is wading in a dark pit.

What has complicated the probe is that the terrorists have not used any technology or communication methods as some of their modules were busted after these devices were tracked. After sifting through one terabyte of data, which included phones, internet and CCTV footage, the police realised it was fruitless.
Leads, but only that

The modus operandi suggests that India's home-grown terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM) could be behind the blasts. Most of the known names of IM have been rounded up and questioned in the past month. "Some members, who are in jails across the country, have also been questioned," said an officer from a central security agency.

Police started investigations by going through a process of elimination and ruled out the involvement of underworld and extortionists. Now, they are focusing on outfits like the IM and Jam-i-yyathul Ansarul Muslimeen (Jiam), but nothing concrete has come up so far. Investigators, however, say they have some leads. "It is not that we have reached a dead-end, we do have some leads, but it is taking time to investigate them," said a senior police officer.

According to sources, the police managed to zero in on the two-wheeler thief who had allegedly stolen the Honda Activa scooter that was reportedly used in the Zaveri Bazaar blast. However, his interrogation has not yielded any results.

A few days after the blasts, the Bihar police had claimed to have arrested two people who were believed to be connected to the blasts. However, that too has turned out to be a false alarm.
The key fact that points to IM's role is the date - the group is known to execute blasts on 13th and 26th. The police are, however, not ruling out the involvement of other allied groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Harkat-ul-Jihade-Islami (HuJI).

Extensive probe
The ATS and crime branch have formed at least 12 crack teams to investigate the case. The teams have fanned out to several places across the country, which include Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Kolkata, Delhi, Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Parbhani. While some places have been visited by the ATS, some are being scouted by other central agencies that are also probing the case.

More than 600 persons, including symphatisers of terrorist groups and relatives of wanted radicals, have been questioned by security agencies. The investigators are also learnt to have got vital clues about terrorist sleeper modules from terrorists lodged in jails across the country. Based on phone call details taken from cell towers near the three blast sites, the police have questioned several persons whose calls were thought to be suspicious.

The police have also recorded statements of victims from all the three blast sites in the hope of getting descriptions of the bombers. More people who have direct or indirect links with radical groups will be grilled in the coming days.

Secret sketch
Forensic experts collected a huge amount of samples and other items from the blast sites and examined them. The police also made a sketch of a suspect on the basis of eyewitness accounts and CCTV footage. However, they have shown reluctance in sharing it with other agencies. The sketch has only been given to the core investigating teams.

The teams have been visiting prisons where terrorists are being held to show them the sketch. On the basis of information gathered, the police have detained over 100 people, but are yet to make any significant arrest.

The reason for the slow progress, officers say, is that they don't want a controversy that dogged them after the arrest of Abdul Samad Bhatkal last year. Samad was arrested by ATS from Mangalore, and though the Union home minister congratulated them for making a breakthrough in Pune's German Bakery blast case, nothing came of it.

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