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Survivor puts face on suspect
- Appeal to blast victims to vet sketch

Hyderabad, Aug. 29: The probe into Saturday’s blasts at Lumbini Park now hinges on the memories of survivors.

Police today released the sketch of a suspect, based on information provided by an injured eyewitness in a city hospital, and asked the 585 spectators who escaped the attack to help identify the man.

Nine persons had been killed at the venue, including seven engineering students who were from Ahmednagar in Maharashtra. Twenty-three were injured.

“Please call and inform us if the picture matches the image of the person who was amongst you that evening,” said M. Punna Rao, the officer who heads the special investigating team probing the explosions. A Mumbai expert helped prepare the computer-aided sketch.

The injured spectator has told the police that the suspect, around 25 years of age, kept a black bag below his seat. “He came and sat in one of the middle rows,” Rao said.

Believed to be about five feet eight inches tall, the man, stocky and fair, wore sunglasses even though it was dark. Rao announced a reward for anyone providing information leading to his arrest. The injured man who helped draw up the sketch will be rewarded, too.

There is relief the bombers did not target the second show, which was to start at 8.30pm. The casualties would have been higher since 1,100 tickets had been sold for it.

Saturday’s blasts, the second in three months after the May attack on Mecca Masjid in which 11 devotees were killed, has put a Lashkar pamphlet under the glare.

In the 2005 booklet, the terror group called for Hyderabad to be liberated from “Hindu rule”. The police’s intelligence wing has sounded alerts about the Lashkar strengthening its network of agents in Hyderabad.

On Tuesday, security agencies are believed to have identified at least two men suspected to have planted the bombs. Raids were conducted in the city to track down the duo. “The two could have planted the bombs that were believed to have been assembled by Mohammad Sharifuddin, a Bangladeshi national,” sources said.

Amid the hunt for the culprits, chief minister Y. S. Rajsekhar Reddy dropped hints that he was upset with the police’s failure to avert the blasts, which killed many tourists, including the Maharashtra students.

“If we can’t protect our guests, how can we be sure of the safety of our own children and women'” he asked police officers.

Reddy was also concerned about the lack of response to warnings from the Centre. “Why did we not discuss the pros and cons of those warnings in our meetings' Why is it that the perception of communal riots stalls our search'”

The chief minister has announced the formation of a special force to fight terror. “It will be on the lines of the grey-hound commandos set up to counter the threat from Maoists in the state,” Reddy told reporters yesterday.

An overhaul of the city police and its intelligence wing is on the cards. A special “protection zone” for the IT companies has been marked in Cyberabad, the city’s IT hub.

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