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Taxi faces and telling title emerge

Mumbai, Aug. 30: Investigators probing the Mumbai blasts have drawn up sketches of the two men in the “taxi family” and have come across five names after a caller claimed responsibility in the name of an outfit with an ominous title, the Gujarat Revenge Group.

The claim, made to a local newspaper by a caller who said he was a member of the Gujarat Revenge Group, came a few days after the Centre asserted that there was no link between the blasts and the post-Godhra riots.

A day after the blasts, which killed more than 50 people, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani had overruled Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who said Mumbai was paying for Gujarat by pointing out that the more deadly of the blasts took place in Zaveri Bazaar, the Gujarati-dominated bullion market.

In the other blast, near the Gateway of India, police suspect a “family” — two men, a woman and a child — might have planted the bomb in a taxi and gone for a walk. They also took care to advise driver Shiv Narayan Pandey to stretch his legs.

Based on descriptions provided by Pandey, who is now the police’s main witness, the sketches depict one man of about 25 years, 5 ft 8 inches tall, of wheatish complexion with a “thin, pencil moustache circling his boyish chin”. He spoke Hindi.

The other has a full beard, is about 5 ft 6 inches tall and is well built. His age is about 35 to 40. At the time of the blast he was wearing a blue shirt and off-white trousers.

Police sources say the sketches are neither final nor completely accurate, but quickly add that they are the biggest pointers they have right now.

The other is the five names — Rafiq Dadu, Iqram Mirza, Moshahid Hussain Sheikh, Zulfiqar Mulla and Shubair Mullah — with police not denying the possibility that they could be members of the little known Gujarat Revenge Group, an organisation of youths formed after last year’s riots.

While Dadu, Mirza and Sheikh are from Gujarat, the other two are said to be recruits from Mumbai and Thane. The police sources claim that the five have links with the Students Islamic Movement of India and might have been its members before joining the revenge group.

The five, the police said, had training in assemblying firearms and explosives in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1990. They were recruited by Saquib Nachan, who is in jail for the Ghatkopar and Mulund blasts conspiracy. These two are among the explosions that rocked Mumbai in the last eight months, culminating in the Monday mayhem.

Nachan, a senior Simi member, had told the police of the presence of the Gujarat Revenge Group.

Police teams have also fanned out in Bihar, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, pursuing a theory that the RDX used in the blasts may have been smuggled in from Nepal.

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