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Cops consult army on bombs

Guwahati, March 26: Intimidated by Ulfa’s bomb knowhow, Assam police are banking on the army to train them in the art of sniffing out explosives from the unlikeliest of places.

The first batch of police personnel will undergo training at the brigade headquarters in Changsari, on the outskirts of the capital city, from Friday.

A senior officer said it had become essential for every member of the police department to be trained in the basics of explosives detection “in the present scenario”.

The police’s anxiousness stems from Ulfa’s ingenuity in bomb-making. A militant arrested in Sualkuchi on March 10 was riding a bicycle that turned out to be one that had been converted into a bomb on wheels. The police had dumped the harmless-looking bicycle in a storeroom, little knowing that its steel frame contained potent explosives. A detonator fixed under the seat would have made the bicycle explosion-ready.

The state forensic laboratory confirmed today that the explosives stuffed into the hollow of the steel frame were TNT and PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate or pentrite).

Additional superintendent of police Swapnanil Deka said 750 grams of TNT and 250 grams of PETN were sent for tests.

The police are trying to ascertain from the series number of the bicycle, found in mint condition, whether more such two-wheelers had been purchased in bulk from any dealer in recent times. “This is a very difficult process, but we are looking into every possible angle to ascertain whether Ulfa has assembled more bicycle bombs.”

Binoy Baishya, the Ulfa militant who was found with the bicycle bomb, told interrogators that he received it from Madhab Rajbongshi, alias Ankur Patgiri, on the Hajo-Rangia road a day before his arrest.

Madhab gave Binoy another bomb and a few programmable timer devices along with the bicycle. Binoy told the police about explosives being stuffed into the bicycle frame only last weekend.

A police source said Ulfa’s improvisations indicated that it was in touch with militant groups abroad. “The process of making a bicycle bomb is very simple, but you need a good brain and a thorough understanding of the way explosives work to be able to do it. Ulfa is incapable of making such a device on its own.”

Ulfa has been using LPG cylinders and pressure cookers to make bombs, but the bicycle bomb is a first.

The police yesterday decided not to allow bicycles within a 100-metre radius of a place with VVIP presence and bar cyclists from any route the chief minister’s convoy takes.

The police headquarters also organised short workshops on bomb detection in all police stations of Kamrup district.

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