Mumbai: The government on Thursday said all groups “hostile to India” are on the “radar” in the probe into the terror attack here and did not rule out the possibility of the blasts being an attempt to derail the forthcoming Indo-Pak talks.
After visiting the sites of the three serial blasts in crowded areas here Wednesday evening that killed 17 persons, Union home minister P. Chidambaram made it clear that it was too early “to point a finger at any one group”. 131 persons were also injured of whom 23 are seriously injured.
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Chidambaram, addressing a 70-minute joint news conference with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, also said “there was no intelligence failure” prior to the blasts.
There was no intelligence input either with the central or the state agencies of an “imminent” attack, he said.
Courtesy: Hindustan Times
“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”.
The minister said intelligence gathering had successfully “neutralized” a number of planned attacks in the past two and a half years, but declined to give any details.
At the same time, he asserted that Indians lived “in the most troubled neighbourhood in the world” and therefore all cities in India were “vulnerable” to attack. “Pakistan-Afghanistan is the epicentre of terror...we are living in the most troubled neighbourhood,” he said.
Asked whether the explosions were timed to disrupt the forthcoming Indo-Pak talks, Chidambaram said “we are not ruling out anything. That angle will also be kept in mind.”
Giving details about investigations carried out since last night, Chidambaram said ammonium nitrate, an explosive substance, was used in the IEDs triggered by timer devices.
He ruled out the use of remote control to trigger the blasts in Zaveri Bazar, Opera House and Dadar areas.
“We are not pointing a finger at this stage,” Chidambaram said, adding there had been no claim of responsibility for the attack.
“All groups hostile to India are on the radar. We are not ruling out anything, we are not ruling in anything. We are looking at everyone,” he said. Chidambaram said, adding “We have to look at every possible hostile group and find out whether they are behind the blast.”
Chidambaram’s response came to repeated questions whether he suspected the hand of a foreign terror group or right wing groups or the underworld or the Maoists or Indian Mujahideen in the explosions.
Union home ministry had officially stated in its first bulletin Wednesday night that the death toll was 21.
“We are not ruling out any angle. We will probe (the involvement of) every terror group... The investigations into the attack will not start on pre-determined assumptions,” he said at another point facing a volley of questions by newsmen after he chaired an emergency meeting to review the situation.
“Whoever perpetrated the attack has worked in a very callous manner. Maybe it’s a very small group working in a clandestine manner,” he said.
“I am confident that ... we will be able to zero in on the group that caused these bomb blasts,” he added.
He also made it clear that India will not be cowed down by the attacks.
“I want to assure everyone both in India and outside, that India will continue to work and grow and prosper,” he said.
The minister also assured that the blasts were not targeted against any foreigners or tourist visiting India.
“The target is India’s unity, integrity and prosperity. There are elements that are hostile to India and they are behind the blasts that have occurred over the last 10 years. We had some respite in the last 31 months. But I want to assure you none of these blasts are aimed at foreigners or visiting tourists,” he said in reply to a question by a foreign journalist.
Chidambaram said the bomb in the Dadar area was placed on a bus shelter; in the Opera House business area it was placed on the road and in the Jhaveri Bazaar jewellery market it was on a motorcycle.
“...The density of the population was quite mind boggling. I think they chose places where even a low intensity blast will have a great impact... There were inherent difficulties in policing densely populated areas,” he said.
The attacks were the worst terror strike in the country since the Mumbai carnage that killed 166 people in November 2008.
Expressing “deep regret” to the people of Mumbai over the incident, he said the probe will not start on any “pre- determined assumptions” and will cover every terror group that has the capacity to carry out such strikes in the country.
Cautioning against jumping to any conclusion on the terror outfit responsible for the attack, Chidambaram said, “I advise Maharashtra government and the police not to proceed with presuppositions and assumptions...We are not in a position to say this group or that group and all aspects will be probed.”
Chidambaram whittled down the number of those killed from 21 that was officially given out last night to 18, including that of a person whose severed head had been found.
A total of 131 people were injured of whom 26 were discharged while condition of 82 was reported stable. 23 were seriously wounded of whom some were critical, he said.
He also trashed hints that the blasts had been targeted at any particular community. “Let us not draw inferences that one community or one religious group was the target. The target was India’s unity, integrity and prosperity and executed by groups hostile to the country.”
He refused to accept the attack as one intended to weaken the country economically, saying “I think they chose the places because of the density or the population and congestion where even a low-intensity blast would have big impact.”
Chidambaram, who had visited the blast sites Wednesday night, said,“ These are the places where you can’t move two steps. Hundreds must have passed by or even on the bag or container at Opera House but nobody noticed. There are inherent difficulties in big cities like Mumbai.”
The home minister said there have been no arrest so far in connection with the blasts and “if anybody is arrested law will take its course.”
Chidambaram, who deeply empathized with Mumbaikars, replying to a question said, “No organization has taken responsibility (for the blasts). Those in the government will take constructive responsibility for the attack. That is why we are saying we regret it and will take action.”
He also extolled Mumbaikars for their “resoluteness and resilience”, saying “this is what is expected of the people of Mumbai.”
He said even the possibility of the role of the underworld will also be looked into.
The minister said post-event investigating teams from the National Investigating Agency, NSG and CFSL teams were working in tandem with Anti-Terrorist Squad of Maharashtra police and Mumbai Crime Branch.
When asked if foreign agencies would be roped in the probe, he said, “At this moment only Indian agencies are involved.”
The minister said CCTV cameras at the three blast sites would throw some leads on the attacks.
“We are trying to install CCTVs at all important places in every city of the country but it will take time and resources,” he said.
About the blast at German Bakery in Pune last year, he said a key person had been arrested while others were not believed to be in India.
He deplored that the owners of the bakery, frequented by foreigners, had not installed CCTV cameras despite warnings based on intelligence inputs.