Within the next 10 days, there could be more bomb attacks in the city by the terror operatives who orchestrated the serial blasts on Tuesday and are still at large, fear senior police officers.
The next strike may have a different target though. It could be a series of BEST buses, cinema theatres or even shopping malls, unlike the seven suburban local trains whose first class compartments were blown to smithereens in the July 11 strike by men who the police suspect to be linked to both the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba. A senior officer said terror operatives are closely monitoring the probe into the blasts by the Anti-Terrorist Squad, through print and electronic media, and could accordingly fine-tune the details of their next strike.
“A terror strike like the one carried out on July 11 comes after months of calibrated planning. They are still at large; still have their resources, which is their stock of explosives, and SIMI and LeT operatives are known to be very committed, focussed and relatively intelligent men. They may strike within 10 days, we should be prepared,” said a senior officer.
Officers added that the police have a tough job on hand in containing the SIMI-LeT network since they “have failed to sufficiently infiltrate their ranks in peace-time when there is a lack of activity from their part”.
“We knew the ISI and LeT stopped relying on the underworld for carrying out their work after 1995, since they thought they were mercenaries and unreliable. They instead cultivated the SIMI cadre since it was motivated. Sizing up the shift, we should have started planting informers in SIMI but could not do it sufficiently apparently,” said the officer.
“Nowadays, there is more emphasis on technical intelligence, tapping phones and email. But there can be no substitute for good human intelligence; we could not infiltrate into the two outfits’ cadres, which is usually very educated, motivated and a closed group,” an officer pointed out.
He added: “SIMI cadres are very disciplined and motivated and stay inside their own walls. They are not like the men of the underworld, where we really infiltrated very well because they would give us a lot more opportunities. They exposed themselves at bars among other places.”
The job of infiltrating the SIMI-LeT cadre, he said, would have taken at least two-three years of painstaking effort. Their strongholds in the city and across the state should have been identified and then infiltrated, he added.
“Our informers should have been there at certain madrasas and mosques, which are used by them to recruit new adherents, especially during the course of discourses after the offering of namaz. Many terror operatives have been known to be recruited by the LeT at such places,” said another senior officer. “Instead, many of our people rely on just taping phones.”
Meanwhile, the ATS has detained three more men, one of them reportedly from Beed. The ATS is probing the role of members of various factions of SIMI and LeT, including “residues” wanted for their involvement in previous blasts that rocked the city since 2002.
An ATS team left for Tripura on Saturday to interrogate the 11 arrested Maharashtrian members of Tabligh-I-Jamat on Thursday who were trying to cross into Bangladesh. They have told the police their 12 accomplice have already returned to Thane but gave wrong address details. The ATS has also called in explosives experts from the elite National Security Guard and forensic experts from Hyderabad and the city-based TISS.