The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nine being questioned

Sept. 9: Police are questioning nine people for leads into the Malegaon blasts.

They were picked up at Manmad, 35 km from Malegaon and the closest railhead, at 6 am today, a source said. Four are from Aurangabad, three from Mumbai and two — a woman and a child — are from Karnataka.

The nine have been brought to Azadnagar police station in Malegaon. The police refused to either confirm or deny the development. The source, too, stressed that the nine have been picked up only for questioning.

Based on the interrogation, a 10-member task force is expected to draw up sketches of suspects.

The Centre suggested that the Malegaon attacks, the July 11 train blasts and the Varanasi explosions are part of “a big conspiracy” to shatter communal peace. The Centre has been blaming militants linked to Kashmir for the earlier strikes. But junior home minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, who spoke of the “big conspiracy” today, did not elaborate how a common thread was found with the Malegaon blasts.

Sources in Delhi claimed that the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory has not found any evidence of the use of RDX in Malegaon. “Crude bombs were used in Malegaon, intended more at igniting a communal backlash,” an official said.

Although groping for clues, the police tried to connect yesterday’s explosions to the train attacks, saying crude bombs were used then, too.

Another “common link” is the bicycle — bombs with timer devices were tied to three bikes. The police said the bicycles were “brand new” and the shop has been traced. Three years ago in Mumbai’s Vile Parle, a bicycle bomb had exploded in a market, injuring 12.

The police are probing whether the perpetrators reached the sites disguised as fakirs. At least 1,000 fakirs had reached Malegaon from south Gujarat alone.

Maharashtra has announced a Rs 5-lakh reward for information on the blasts.

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