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Cloud stays as smoke clears

Mumbai, July 31: The smoke cleared slowly after the blast that killed Bollywood special effects expert Dilnawaz Mustafa Khan, alias Sikandar, along with six others, but left behind a thick haze of questions.

What happened in Dilnawaz’s house — variously described as stuntman, art director, explosives supplier and expert — that was so powerful that it blew off his concrete house, along with that of his neighbours, and flung the victims more than 100 metres away'

The answers are doing little to clear the confusion. “He quietly worked in his godown and dealt with the (Hindi) film industry,” said Rajesh Singh, one of Dilnawaz’s lucky neighbours who survived without a scratch. “He was an explosive expert or something like that. I don’t know exactly.’’

But another neighbour, who wasn’t ready to identify himself because “the police are already bundling up innocent people for interrogation”, said: “I always had doubts about this explosive business and something didn’t feel right at all.”

The police have their doubts, too. The only thing they can clearly see till now is the debris surrounding the house. Forensic experts are trying to assess the volume of explosives that went off and what it contained. Crime Branch-CID officials said the blast was a result of “explosive chemicals that triggered off”. They are being aided by sniffer dogs, which seemed as confused as their masters.

The blast in the wee hours of the morning, around 3.30 am, jolted the residents of the chawl out of their slumber. Rajesh Singh rushed to the site and found it “full of debris and splattered with the blood of battered bodies”. After the initial shock, the neighbours came to help — calling up the police, rushing the 29 persons wounded to the nearby Cooper Hospital.

“We used anything that we could lay our hands on: bedsheets, tarpaulin, stretchers to carry out the wounded,” said Singh. “But the sight was just unbearable.”

The police have launched a massive hunt to trace the illegal storage of chemical explosives in the city.

The police may find some answers from Dilnawaz’s brother-in-law Ayub Khan, who has claimed to be a tailor with a shop in central Mumbai. “Ayub was with Dilnawaz for the last two days and had come out to make a call just at the time of the blast,” a police official said. “We are investigating if they were supplying explosives for (other) blasts in the city.”

The police are also interrogating Dilnawaz’s business associate Khalid Shaifi and film-makers Ali Morani and Mohammed Morani, with whom Dilnawaz has worked.

The sleuths have called an urgent meeting of the Movie Action and Dummy Effects Association, of which Dilnawaz seems to have been a member, to find out more on the dead explosive expert and others like him.

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