Mumbai: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India would “relentlessly pursue” those who carried out the three Wednesday evening rush-hour blasts that killed 17 people and injured 133 in Mumbai.
Singh said he understood the “shock and outrage of the people” of Mumbai over the bombings, which marked the deadliest terrorist action in the city since the 2008 attacks in which 166 people died. “Perpetrators of the Mumbai blasts shall be pursued relentlessly and brought to justice quickly,” Singh said after flying to India’s financial capital. “I understand the shock and outrage of the people of Mumbai, I share their pain, anguish and anger.”
Singh’s statements came as investigators turned to CCTV (closed-circuit television camera) footage in their struggle to identify who was behind the attack.
Meanwhile, cracks seemed to appear in the investigation into the blasts, with the Union home minister disagreeing with state police over who could have been responsible for the act of terrorism.
Maharashtra police officials were convinced that a home-grown outfit was behind the blasts, but home minister P. Chidambaram contradicted that contention, asking them not to jump to hasty conclusions and look into other terror groups as well.
“We strongly believe that it’s the handiwork of a local group because one blast was of low intensity and (the) other two had a huge impact. We shared the same finding with the Union home minister,” said a top intelligence officer of the Maharashtra police, who didn’t want to be named. “We differ with (the) home minister when he said all terror groups and organizations should be probed.”
A senior Mumbai police officer involved in the investigation confirmed this.
“The leads which we have got so far indicate some kind of localized group who don’t have financial muscle,” the officer said.
Police officials said that people allegedly belonging to the home-grown terror group Indian Mujahideen (IM) and the proscribed Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) are being interrogated by various agencies for possible leads. Two IM members were arrested two days before the blasts and several others, including those belonging to SIMI, have been picked up since. They are being questioned at a secret location, according to police officials.
Chidambaram, who visited the blast sites early on Thursday morning and met victims in hospitals, told reporters in Mumbai that all groups “hostile to India” are on the “radar” and did not rule out the possibility of the blasts being an attempt to derail the coming India-Pakistan talks. He said it was too early “to point a finger at any one group”.
He denied that the attack was an intelligence failure on the part of Central and state agencies.
“Intelligence is collected every day, every hour. It (blasts) is not a failure of intelligence agencies. Whoever has perpetrated the attacks has worked in a very clandestine manner,” Chidambaram said, reiterating it was a “coordinated terror attack”. Ammonium nitrate was used in the improvised explosive devices and timer devices were used to trigger them, he said.
The blasts can’t be construed as an attack on India’s commercial capital, the minister said.
“India will continue to prosper. I don’t think the blasts yesterday can be interpreted to be an attack on markets,” he said. “Blasts have taken place in Dadar, in Opera House and Zaveri Bazaar. I think they chose the places because of the density of the population and very congested nature of these areas.”
Rakesh Maria, chief of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, said three cases have been registered and close to a dozen teams have been formed along with the Mumbai crime branch to investigate the serial blasts. This was seen as a move to bridge any differences and avoid competition between the two elite police units.
Of the 17 fatalities, the most were reported at Opera House, where 10 died and 73 were injured. Seven people died and 50 were hurt at Zaveri Bazar. No casualties were reported from the Dadar blast.
Maria said heavy rains, which disrupted Mumbai’s suburban transport system on Thursday, have also made investigations difficult and forensic experts have asked for more time for sample analysis.
Forensic experts from Delhi, Mumbai and Pune are working alongside investigators from the National Intelligence Agency, which was set up after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks to exclusively probe all terror-related incidents, and the Intelligence Bureau.
Footage from several CCTVs is being analysed by the Mumbai police. “We are trying to create a virtual crime scene by talking to the injured. All the dead have been identified. Their background along with all the injured is being verified,” said Himanshu Roy, chief of the Mumbai crime branch.
The police suspect the perpetrators may have been caught in the blasts. The National Security Guard discovered that one of the victims had part of a circuit board embedded in his body.
Union home secretary R.K. Singh said the possibility of a suicide bomber being involved was not ruled out, citing the above discovery.
Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani said “repeated” terror attacks on Mumbai reflected a failure of the country’s policy and intelligence. He said Pakistan should be told to dismantle its terror infrastructure.
PTI contributed to this story.