The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bullets breach cop cover
Highway haven for trail of terror

The day after bags full of bullets came tumbling out of a truck in the port area and proved how strategic the city had become to militant organisations routing their ammunition to terrorist hot spots, a multi-agency probe got underway to trace the terror trail of Calcutta’s biggest arms haul.

Preliminary findings stitched together on Thursday revealed how the arms suppliers responsible for hoarding 25,000 AK-47 bullets in a Hyde Road parking lot had managed to penetrate the city’s defences despite repeated warnings.

Besides parking themselves not far from an intelligence wing office and remaining undetected for a month, the ammunition-bearers also managed to hoodwink police guards in every district, while driving down National Highway (NH) 34, from north Bengal to Calcutta.

According to information available with the central intelligence wings, a huge consignment of arsenal — in four trucks — rolled out from Karimganj in Bangladesh in the second fortnight of July. Bangladesh Rifles managed to intercept one of the trucks. The cache recovered from the Dhobitala parking lot on Wednesday could be from one of the three trucks that slipped through, officials said.

The intelligence agencies had lost track of the three trucks for a while, only to pick up the trail of one in the last week of July. A central intelligence agency was tipped off that a truck full of ammunition was headed for Calcutta from Assam. The information was promptly passed on to state agencies and, from them, to the district police wings.

Police in Jalpaiguri were alerted first, in the last week of July. The information then trickled down — geographically — to every district through which NH-34 ran. But no one managed to intercept the consignment concealed in the driver’s cabin of a truck, apparently, loaded with bamboo poles, officials said.

In Calcutta, the driver and cleaner of the truck paid parking fees till September 20. “This means that they had plans to leave the city around that time,” a senior Calcutta Police official said, admitting that the agency was “fortunate” that the arms-dealers did not plan to leave the city earlier. “If they had left on, say, September 1, they would have escaped notice,” he explained.

Bangladeshi agencies, meanwhile, have denied that the consignment originated from their side of the border. “Bangladesh Police seized a huge cache of ammunition meant for AK-47s and AK-56s from Bogura in Rajshahi. There were 62,000 bullets and more than 100 kg of explosives. But there was no information about any truck full of ammunition,” Bangladesh Rifles director (operations) Colonel Ahmadullah Imam said over phone from Dhaka.

Mohammed Alamgir, keeper of the parking lot where the truck was raided on Wednesday, was interrogated at length at Lalbazar, while artists were busy drawing sketches of the two suspected Kashmiri militants who Alamgir had seen changing the truck’s number-plate a few days ago. The truck’s engine and chassis numbers suggested that it was originally from Nagaland, deputy commissioner (detective department) Soumen Mitra said.

Parallel to the probe by state agencies, the military intelligence wing has started its own probe into why the city is becoming a favourite stopover point for arms — and possibly — men looking to create trouble in other states. Calcutta Police has also sought the help of Assam police in the case.

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