The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mumbai on hit list: Bhujbal

Mumbai, March 15: Two days after the Mulund train explosion killed 12 people, there are fearful conjectures that it forms a series starting with the Ghatkopar bus blast last December. There have been three in between.

Deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal said Mumbai seems to have been marked for mayhem because of the size of its population and economy. “Mumbai is on the hit list of a terrorist organisation that has plans to create panic similar to that in Gujarat,” he said.

Though the city is crawling with policemen — at street intersections, railway stations, barricades — the feeling is the city will have to take the punches as best as it can. There is little anybody can do if it is targeted by subversive elements.

“More than 2,000 families from outside settle here every day, 70 lakh people travel each day by local trains and everybody either seems to be going somewhere or coming from somewhere at all times of the day,” a senior investigating officer said exasperatedly. “How can we keep tabs on such a large number of people'”

But with chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde vowing the culprits will be brought to book, police are upbeat. Mumbai police, the crime branch and the Railway Police are working round the clock to get to the bottom of the blasts. The Police teams have fanned out in the country to follow leads.

Initial investigations, the police said, have established an undeniable link between the Ghatkopar and Mulund blasts. “The modus operandi seems to have been the same,” Shinde said, adding he could not deny the involvement of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India or the Inter-Services Intelligence.

Unconfirmed reports say a few Simi activists have been arrested and are being questioned by the police. Investigators say the Simi stink in the Mulund blast is unmistakable.

“It could have been executed by the Simi at the behest of the Lashkar-e-Toiba,” a senior police officer said. Earlier, about six Simi activists, now in police custody, had been charged in the Ghatkopar blast. “The same group that executed the Ghatkopar blast is behind the Mulund attack,” the official said.

The police yesterday questioned Abdul Mateen, Shaikh Muzamil, Imran Rehman Shaikh and Mohammed Altaf — the main accused in the Ghatkopar blast — and said they had unearthed “vital clues”.

Mumbai police chief R.S. Sharma said: “We interrogated them and they have led us to some important clues in the Mulund case.” He added it was a matter of time before the culprits were nabbed.

The Maharashtra State Forensic Laboratory today said ammonium nitrate, which was easily available, was used in the train blast. Forensic experts confirmed that the nature of the detonator was similar to the one used in the Ghatkopar blast.

Alarmed by the chemical’s use in bombs, the laboratory has evolved a plan to check its purchase. “The authorities should make sure the chemical goes to the right hands and every buyer should be made accountable,’’ director of the forensic unit, Rukmini Krishnamurthy, said.

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