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11/7 probe: No breakthrough yet

Although 10 people have been arrested, some of them LeT suspects, they are yet to provide any clues to the police.

india Updated: Sep 07, 2006 18:27 IST

Almost two months after serial bombings on rush-hour suburban trains left nearly 190 people dead in Mumbai, the elite Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) is nowhere near cracking the larger conspiracy in the case.

Although 10 people have been arrested, some of them Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) suspects, they are yet to provide any clues to the police to piece together the meticulous planning that went into the horrific act.

In fact as the pressure for a breakthrough mounts, many Muslims in the city are alleging that the police are targeting them unnecessarily.

Till date, over 100 people have been detained for questioning from predominantly Muslim areas like Mahim.

"It's as if the police are out to prove that members of only one particular community are terrorists," said Maulana Mehmood Daryabadi, general secretary, All India Ulema Council, a body of religious scholars.

With the arrest of Akmal Hashmi, suspected LeT operative in Jammu and Kashmir last week, the police may yet be on another wild goose chase.

Hashmi reportedly told his interrogators that the LeT had dispatched 17 operatives to Mumbai to carry out the bombings, though 16 of them returned to the valley after the operation.

According to highly placed sources in central intelligence agencies assisting the probe, at least five of the 10 people arrested so far were picked up by the ATS based on information it had gathered when it busted an LeT module in Aurangabad in May and followed it up with a huge haul of RDX, arms and explosives in Nashik.

"I see the recent arrests as an extension of the detentions carried out in May. These people most certainly are not connected directly to what happened on July 11. They are part of the larger terror network in Maharashtra and that is it," admitted a senior Intelligence Bureau (IB) officer, closely involved with the investigations.

Even the high-profile ATS chief Krish Pal Raghuvanshi has so far refused to comment on whether any of the 10 suspects had a direct link to the 7/11 bombings.

But Inspector Sunil Deshmukh confirmed the IB's grim view of the investigations so far.

"We have not been able to ascertain their (the 10 people arrested) role in the blasts but certainly they are part of the larger conspiracy which is to spread terror across the state," he declared.

Although investigators are tight-lipped about details of the investigations, many are certain that the LeT was behind the blasts.

"Investigations have revealed the existence of several sleeper terror modules set up by the LeT and other terror outfits from across the border (read Pakistan), we are working on these terror modules in the city. We have gathered vital inputs on the terror cells from the arrested suspects," said Mumbai Police chief AN Roy.

Roy however, refused to elaborate.

But despite the ATS' inability to identify the masterminds behind the conspiracy, the preparations that went into the run-up to the bombings and the perpetrators, it is still confident of a breakthrough.

For now, the ATS is awaiting the results of the lie detector, brain mapping and nacro-test tests of two of the 10 arrested - Kamal Ahmed Sheik and Tanvir Ansari - who were taken to Bangalore Sunday for the scientific tests.

"We believe these two men have vital information on the blasts that took place at Mathunga and Jogeshwari and Khar stations in northwest suburban Mumbai," Raghuvanshi said.

Investigators have begun to realise that the new face of terror is hard to trace, as sleeper cells comprise those without criminal records, some who are in notable professions.