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Major lead still eludes 7/11 probe

Hard-nose investigators have not ventured beyond ''educated guesses''.

india Updated: Jul 20, 2006 02:41 IST

"A breakthrough is expected as early as possible,” Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had boasted in a television interview on July 15.

“Days or weeks for the breakthrough?” he was asked. Response: “Maybe earlier than that.” Nine days after the serial blasts, it appears to be a tall claim.

Behind the breaking news bulletins and racy accounts of suspects being tracked down and the country being combed to unravel the terror chain -- from Kashmiri apple merchants, Islamic social workers from Tripura and Kathmandu and closer home at Mahim -- one thing is clear: hard-nose investigators have not ventured beyond “educated guesses and surmises”.

“Many of the names you get to hear everyday are real, but we don't know if any of them are really involved,” a senior Mumbai police official told the Hindustan Times.

“We are pursuing every lead, but at this point we are not clear about who did trigger the explosions.” Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief KP Raghuvanshi told the HT on Wednesday:

“Of course, we have leads and are pursuing them. No arrests have been made so far.” What are the leads? “No comment,” said Raghuvanshi.

Suspects abound. Potential “terror-dealers” -- who escaped after the initial crackdown aren't in short supply: former electrician Sayyad Zahibuddin Ansari Sayyad and computer professional Mohammed Fayyaz alias “Fayyaz Kagzi”, both from the small town of Beed, and former passport forger Rahil, the Kashmiri youth, who is also a suspect in the October 2005 Delhi bombs that killed 60.

More than 100 seasoned “investigators” drawn from various wings of the Mumbai police -- and attached to the anti-terrorist squad, which is heading the probe along with the railway police -- are fanned out across the country.

The Mumbai police have no direct role in the probe. The teams are scouring Muslim-dominated urban sprawls in Mumbai and other Maharashtra towns.

The list of suspect organisations is long: the ISI-backed Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure) and the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), to name a few.

But links have now been established between the two. Then, there is a renegade chip off the Lashkar block: the Lashkar-e-Qahhar (Angry Army), though it is not clear if it is a real terror group or the figment of an overactive teen imagination. Also mentioned: Dawood Ibrahim and the Al-Qaeda.