Shillong, May 19: Meghalaya and Assam police have blown the lid off an explosives-smuggling network formed by the ISI, marking the culmination of a joint operation that began with the arrest of the prime accused in last year’s Independence Day blast in Dhemaji.
Md Hasifuddin, the suspected ISI agent who is believed to have supplied explosives to the banned Ulfa for the blast in Dhemaji town of Assam on August 15 last year, was caught on Sunday evening with over 400 gelatine sticks. The explosives are enough to blow up a large housing complex.
Hasimuddin’s modus operandi was revealed to interrogators by Rashid Bharali, the Ulfa militant who is believed to have triggered the blast that killed as many as 17 schoolchildren in Dhemaji. Bharali was apprehended in Assam on May 12.
Confirming the breakthrough, Meghalaya director-general of police W.R. Marbaniang said the police had long been monitoring the movements of people near the coal mines of Lad Rymbai and Khliehriat. “We knew that criminals were frequenting these places in the guise of buyers.”
The police finally caught up with Hasimuddin at Minkrie village, under Khliehriat police station. His accomplice, identified as Ham Bahadur Thapa, was arrested, too. Both have since been handed over to Assam police and booked under the Explosives Act.
Marbaniang said the police were now investigating how far the ISI network had spread. “This being a mining area, gelatine sticks are available with most people and ISI agents could be using it to their advantage.”
ISI agents are suspected to have mingled with the local population in the coal and limestone belts to avoid detection. “Many of them are probably posing as mine workers and it may be difficult to identify them,” said a senior official.
Police officials investigating the case are not ruling out “pilferage” either, saying it is possible that gelatine sticks and other explosives supplied for mine blasting are being passed to militants.
Highly-placed sources in Assam said the ISI had turned Lad Rymbai and Khliehriat into a storehouse of explosives.
A special task force of Meghalaya police has been given the responsibility of monitoring the use of explosives by contractors and miners.
The task force is expected to get cracking by the end of this month.