The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Asansol duo held for blast quiz
- Probe team from Andhra reaches state

May 20: A Hyderabad police team probing Friday’s Mecca Masjid blast arrived in Bengal and detained two persons tonight from Mihijam in Asansol.

The police, however, would not reveal what role Mohammad Ilias and Mohammad Yunus, picked up from their homes, might have played in the bombing.

The SIM cards of the mobiles used to trigger the bombing are believed to have been bought in Rupnarayanpur, a Burdwan town about 260 km from Calcutta and located near the Jharkhand border. The four-member Hyderabad team, with help from the Bengal police, was trying to locate the shop late tonight.

The Bengal link to the blast strengthened today with police sources saying that Mohammad Shaheed Bilal, chief of the Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul Jehadi Islam, had arrived in Calcutta last month from Gujarat. The SIM cards were bought in his name, the investigators had said.

“Bilal was moving in and around the city during April and stayed at Rajarhat in North 24-Parganas and Bangur in South 24-Parganas,” said an officer working with the Hyderabad team, led by a deputy superintendent.

“It seems he was here to help the extremists who arrived from Karachi via Bangladesh. They set up base here and procured materials to carry out the blast in the Mecca Masjid.”

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy too said there was “overwhelming” evidence of a foreign hand in the blast that killed 11 people and injured over 60, but did not elaborate.

In Hyderabad, the police today found a third cellphone with wires sticking out at the bottom of the Mecca Masjid water tank, near which the blast had taken place. The two cellphone triggers found earlier, attached to the two bombs that didn’t explode, are already the focus of the probe.

The police and bomb squads combed Mecca Masjid and many other mosques in Hyderabad today for more bombs but none were found. Sleuths said one of the SIM cards was bought in Hyderabad on May 2, but it wasn’t clear whether they were referring to the phone found today.

Police sources said there are two ways of using a cellphone as a trigger for a bomb — by making a call or by setting the handset alarm to go off at a specified time.

“Fortunately, the alarm option wasn’t used at Mecca Masjid, else the other two bombs would also have exploded even though the SIM cards had been deactivated,” a source said.

Intelligence sources said the explosives had been packed in steel pipes specially moulded in the shape of grenades. “Such a shape causes more damage as it allows splinters, iron balls, etc, to spread more forcefully,” a source said.

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