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Bicycle clue points to IM

New Delhi, Feb. 21: The multiple explosions that killed over a dozen people in Hyderabad this evening may have been in “retaliation” for Afzal Guru’s hanging, intelligence sources said tonight, as the needle of suspicion pointed to a familiar suspect.

Sources said the modus operandi — bombs on bicycles and choice of locations — pointed to the Indian Mujahideen, an amorphous group suspected to have carried out the May 2008 serial blasts in Jaipur, where too bombs were tied to eight brand-new sports bicycles.

A Delhi police case last year also suggests that Indian Mujahideen operatives carried out a recce of Dilsukhnagar, where the bombs ripped through a crowded area.

“Our assessment showed there was a possibility of retaliation (for Afzal’s hanging) as many militant groups, including the Indian Mujahideen, had threatened to hit back,” a senior intelligence official told The Telegraph.

The Parliament attack convict was hanged at Tihar jail early on February 9. The government has so far refused to hand over his body to his Kashmir-based family.

The Indian Mujahideen is also suspected to have carried out serial explosions in Ahmedabad in July 2008.

Security sources said they also suspected the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which had promised to retaliate after Afzal’s execution.

None, however, would go on record that the hanging — or the November execution of 26/11 gunman Ajmal Kasab — was the trigger behind today’s blasts that left at least 13 dead and wounded more than 80.

Intelligence agencies had warned of “retaliation” by militant outfits after Afzal’s hanging. According to sources, the Multi-Agency Centre, the central co-ordination mechanism for intelligence agencies in the country, had received inputs about such threats.

Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said there was information about a possible attack anywhere in India. The warnings, he told reporters, had come over the last two days and had been conveyed to all states and the metros, he told reporters.

All major cities in the country have been placed on high alert, sources said.

The minister, however, conceded there was no specific input. Asked about the involvement of any terror group, the minister told PTI “it was too early to say anything and only an investigation will reveal it”.

Around the time of the July 2008 blasts in Ahmedabad, the Indian Mujahideen had emailed graphic warnings on possible attacks. Following the blasts in the Pink City in May that year, Calcutta police had claimed to have received such a letter, apparently from the same group.

No such letter is known to have surfaced or been received by either the police or media organisations till late on Thursday.

Within an hour of the blasts, the National Investigation Agency despatched a team of bomb experts from Delhi. So did the National Security Guard. A team of 25 NSG commandos took off on a commercial flight from Indira Gandhi international airport.

“They went exclusively for post-blast investigations,” said an NSG source.

States and especially the metros were warned about the possibility of attacks or more blasts. NIA sources said they were not in a position to make any guesses on who could be involved in today’s explosions.