|A victim recalls the blast at JJ Hospital. (AFP)
Mumbai, Aug. 31: In a stealthy operation, Mumbai police have found what could be the biggest lead in the conspiracy behind the twin blasts of August 25.
It has been confirmed that the police have detained two men and a woman from the suburbs of Goregaon for questioning. The detentions raise the possibility that the trio may have the key to the plot which caused the death of 52 people in two car-bomb explosions occurring almost simultaneously in Zaveri Bazaar and the Gateway of India.
They could be the family that planted the bomb in the boot of taxi which blew up at the Gateway.
The most significant breakthrough in the case till now came after intensive interrogation of the driver, Shiv Narayan, who drove a family of two men, a woman and a little boy in and around Mumbai and helped the police prepare a sketch of the alleged bombers.
In his testimony, Narayan, who drove the family for two days, told the police that, after getting off at the Gateway, around 12.30 pm, they told him to get some food as they wanted to take a stroll. Moments after Narayan walked away from the taxi, the RDX-laden vehicle exploded, killing 12 persons on the spot and injuring scores of others in the bloodiest blasts after the serial explosions of March 1993.
Although no senior police officer wanted to make a categorical statement on the detentions, none has denied them either.
Deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal avoided giving a straight answer when he said “some people” have been picked up for questioning not just from Mumbai but also from Aurangbad and Pune.
“A clear picture will evolve as the interrogation progresses,” he said. But he did not contradict the report that “we are hoping the interrogation will yield something crucial”.
Narayan had claimed that the two men had put “some sort of a sack” — later found to be containing RDX — in the boot of his taxi. They had also refused to carry it along with them on their walk when the woman asked them why they were leaving it there. This version has also led to the theory that the woman and the kid did not know about the conspiracy to bomb Mumbai and were just ignorant decoys.
A police officer investigating the blast said: “It is easier for a family to evade suspicion.”
Mumbai police have been carrying out investigations in unprecedented secrecy, picking up people, presumably for questioning, without revealing details.
“We don’t want to jeopardise our investigations even remotely,” senior police officer Satyapal Singh said.
But the force has been working overtime, fanning out to states as far as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat.
Two days ago, they detained five persons — three from Gujarat and two from Mumbai and Thane — even as they released sketches of two of the main accused in the blast, one a 25-year-old and the other “between 35 and 40, bearded and well-built”.
Last night, two persons were picked up from their hideout in Goregaon after a joint intelligence bureau and crime branch team swooped on the suburb.
Sources said the three persons in Narayan’s taxi have been identified, though the police are not ready to reveal the names yet.
The investigation, being handled by the crime branch and co-ordinated by senior officers of the IB department, are being monitored by chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.