Sept. 27: The government today claimed a breakthrough in the investigation into the temple massacre, showcasing a car and identifying the perpetrators as Pakistanis, but refused to go on record with the information.
“Highly-placed” sources told PTI that the two slain militants who stormed the Swaminarayan temple in Gandhinagar have been identified as Mohammad Amjad Bhai from Lahore and Hafiz Yasir from Attock.
But no government official was willing to be quoted by name. An external affairs ministry spokesperson said “valuable clues” had been collected and “we are very optimistic that we will be able to come to a definite conclusion very soon”.
The Delhi disclosure came a few hours after Gujarat police announced in Ahmedabad that the taxi in which the militants had reached the temple has been found and its driver and owner are being questioned. The driver of the car, Raju Thakore, is reported to have confirmed that he had ferried the “Hindi-speaking, cropped-hair” militants to the temple between 2 and 3.30 pm for Rs 120 (See chart).
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said in Calcutta that the home department is probing reports that the militants might have boarded a train from Howrah. “If it is established that they had boarded any train from Howrah or any other place in Bengal, we will have to take steps to flush out extremists from the state,” Bhattacharjee said.
Gujarat director general of police K. Chakravarthy said the driver and the car’s owner, Mukesh Acharya, have volunteered the information. “In fact, they are helping the police in the investigations. They have not been arrested or apprehended,” the officer added.
The Gujarat government had announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh for information on the two militants. But the DGP stressed that the police till now have “only information, not evidence”.
He also conceded that “we cannot deny that local support had been supplied to the terrorists. The whole operation was too smooth for someone who was new to Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and the huge temple.”. Chief minister Narendra Modi has been trying to debunk suggestions that the post-Godhra backlash could have provided a local toehold to the militants.
In Delhi, officials admitted in private that the disclosures of names would not be enough to convince the international community. Investigators also admitted that they have not yet identified the duo’s organisation.
Usually, in such high-profile cases, the government makes a formal announcement. In this case, the news came out through a wire service probably because the information is still sketchy.
“The investigations are pointing towards Pakistan, but we do not want to jump the gun. We will go public when all details are known,” a senior home ministry official said.
The disclosure that the two were from Pakistan may also have something to do with the fear of a backlash against the minorities. The government had been at pains to point out that the militants were not “locals”. Till late last night, intelligence agencies had been saying that it would take time to establish the identity of the two militants.