The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Finger at dark man in 30s

Siliguri, Nov. 21: A man in his early thirties may have planted the bomb that ripped through a coach of a passenger train last evening at Belakoba, 28 km from here.

Yet to be identified, the dark-complexioned man was one of the passengers travelling in the general bogie of the New Jalpaiguri (NJP)-Haldibari Passenger that was blown up, killing seven persons and leaving 53 wounded.

Two women, who were in the bogie but managed to escape the brunt of the blast, had noticed the man when the train chugged into the station a little after 6.05 pm. From her bed at the Northeast Frontier Railway Hospital at NJP, Chanchala Saha (27) said: “It was raining heavily and the lights of the bogie had gone out just before the train pulled into the station. As soon as it reached the station, I saw a young man in the coach push through the crowd of passengers, rush to the gate and jump on to the tracks.”

Ira Paul (48), like Saha, is a resident of Siliguri’s North Colony, and she too had seen the man, who was bending down to place something on a vegetable sack kept under a seat near the gate that was facing the tracks.

Though K.L. Meena, the inspector-general of police for north Bengal, refused to confirm whether the two versions would be used to make a portrait of the suspect, he did not deny it either. “Our men are applying all possible methods to track down the militant gang,” he said.

Additional superintendent of Jalpaiguri police, T.K. Das, however, said the identity kit would be prepared on the basis of the eyewitness accounts. “But fear-psychosis could also generate such ideas,” he warned.

“The man was possibly a lesser-trained KLO linkman, who was assigned to plant the bomb in any of the two cars of the passenger train that were to be attached to the Darjeeling Mail at NJP station,” said a senior intelligence officer. “But thinking that the general bogie would be connected to the Sealdah-bound mail train, he planted the device there.”

The train, however, was delayed in order to let the Up Haldibari Passenger pass. “He realised it was already late and the bomb would go off soon. So he jumped off at Belakoba,” the officer added.

Sujit Sarkar, the additional director-general (Intelligence Bureau), told The Telegraph over phone from Calcutta: “Though we are yet to ascertain the size and character of the explosive, it is almost clear that KLO and Ulfa militants had organised the blast.”

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