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New Delhi/ Ahmedabad: The conspiracy behind the July 26 serial bombings in Ahmedabad has been "nearly cracked" and 10 people, including the mastermind, have been arrested, said the police on Saturday.
Gujarat Director General Police P C Pandey announced the banned Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) carried out the blasts and one its leaders, Mufti Abu Bashir, was arrested in Lucknow on Saturday morning for allegedly leading the conspiracy.
Yunus Mansuri, Samsuddin Sheikh, R S Kadri, Yasuddin Sheikh, Usman Agarbatiwala, Imran, Iqbal Sheikh, Sajid Mansuri and Zahid Sheikh are the other nine people arrested.
Bashir was arrested by a joint team of UP and Gujarat police from Lucknow's Moulviganj area and he is being brought to Gujarat for interrogation. "He will be formally arrested and interrogated and the fully story will then be out," said Pande.
Bashir, who hails from Binapara village in Azamgarh, was allegedly “the brains” behind the blasts. Interestingly, Bashir had stayed in Hyderabad for two years before the August 2007 blasts in the city.
Bashr, with his oratory, "used to inspire terror activities. In April, he had held a big meeting. He had also visited Ahmedabad. By interrogating him more clues about other blasts that occurred in the country earlier could come out. We have uncovered sleeper cells successfully," said Pandey.
All the accused have been changed with murder, waging war against the state and other offences.
Pandey refused to give details about other arrested persons, but said that the investigation into the blasts spread over a number of states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi and Karnataka. "In no previous blasts, has the case been completely solved. These arrests may give leads to other blasts including those in Jaipur, Hyderabad and Uttar Pradesh."
He claimed the Ahmedabad crime branch and the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Gujarat Police, along with local intelligence units, had "nearly solved" the serial bombings in Ahmedabad as well as about 11-12 others including those in Jaipur, Bangalore, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.
"With a sense of pride I can say that, our efforts in the past 20 days have paid off, and we have almost completely solved the blasts case," he said.
Indian Mujaheedin is SIMI
The Indian Mujaheedin, a group that sent e-mail to media organisations claiming responsibility for the Ahmedabad blasts, was just “another form” of SIMI.
Pande claimed SIMI had split into two groups of moderates and hardliners. The hardliners had dropped the 'S' from SIMI and now called it the Indian Mujahideen.
Pandey said intelligence units in several Gujarat towns had uncovered the network of "SIMI sleeper cells". "We have uncovered this network and it will help in solving the cases of other offensives across the country," he said.
The police claimed the planning and training for the blasts began at least a year ago. In December 2007 SIMI members met in Wagamon near Ernakulam in Kerala and carried out a training camp for the blasts.
Another round of training was held at the hilly Pavagadh area of Halol in Panchmahals district in January 2008. Material for the blasts was bought in Madhya Pradesh.
At the Ernakulam camp, Bhatia said, the activists were trained in planting cycle bombs and also put through a regimen of rock climbing and swimming, and were taught how to survive in the jungle and how to throw the police off track if caught.
Two or three meetings were held in Ahmedabad and Vadodara after the Halol camp to plan the blasts in Ahmedabad.
The only difference between the bombs used in the Ahmedabad blasts and those that failed to go off in Surat was the timers used. The timers used in the Ahmedabad bombs were mechanical clocks while those in Surat bombs were IC chips that malfunctioned.
“The people involved in the blasts were also involved in the Surat conspiracy.” said Pandey. “There were two different types of bombs used in Ahmedabad and Surat. The integrated chips used in Surat didn’t go off due to some technical glitch.”
A SIMI leader called Safdar Nagori played an important role in procuring material for the blasts but the planning suffered a setback when Nagori was arrested in Madhya Pradesh in March this year. “The arrest was a setback for the SIMI activists in Gujarat. There was a major meeting held in April (after Nagori’s arrest),” said Ashish Bhatia, Joint Commissioner (Crime), Ahmedabad.
The person who sent a message to media organisations on Indian Mujaheedin’s behalf by using an American national’s e-mail account has not been identified. “Investigations are on,” said Bhatia.
The ATS of the Mumbai police is investigating a computer engineer's possible role in the Ahmedabad blasts. The Gujarat Police passed on information about the engineer, whose identity has not been disclosed to the ATS as one of the likely masterminds in the blasts along with Bashir.
”We have some hints, which will help us in cracking the cases related to the Jaipur and Mumbai blasts, but media needs to bear with us. We have all the information about how the blasts were planned but can't be revealed right now,” he said.
“We received cooperation from UP, Karnataka, Maharashtra police and also from central agencies. The credit of cracking this case goes to the entire Indian police force, because the entire nation's police has helped Gujarat police in investigating this case,” said Pandey.
The 21 bomb blasts in Ahmedabad July 26 killed over 50 people and injured at least 150.
(With inputs from IANS and PTI)