The perpetrators of the Saturday blasts that have claimed 46 lives so far seem to have been distinctly influenced by the plot of the Bollywood film
— which released 10 days ago — police sources told HT.
In the film, the main villain, Sultan, outlines his plan of first setting off low-intensity explosions in crowded places, and then, when the injured throng the nearest hospital, triggering a much bigger blast at the hospital itself.
In Ahmedabad too, there were 19 relatively less lethal blasts at first, which saw the injured being rushed to hospitals.
These were followed by two deadly high-intensity explosions at two hospitals — the Civil Hospital and the LG Hospital — that killed 27 people.
“The modus operandi was unique,” Ashish Bhatia, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) told HT.
Forensic and counter-terrorism experts of the Gujarat police were engaged in investigations on Sunday, even as the blasts saw a high alert being sounded in several states across the country. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh convened an urgent review meeting to analyse the information trickling in.
The meeting agreed upon a list of steps that had to be taken immediately to cope with the growing terror threat, home ministry sources said. Sources said the central intelligence agencies expressed the view that the so-called ‘Indian Mujahideen’, the group which by email claimed responsibility for the blasts, could well be a smokescreen to conceal the hand of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
Prime Minister Singh and Home Minister Shivraj Patil will both be visiting Ahmedabad on Monday. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi may accompany them.
Chief Minister Narendra Modi held a cabinet meeting in the morning to take stock, while BJP president LK Advani, who holds the neigbouring Lok Sabha seat of Gandhinagar, visited the injured in one of the hospitals. "There should be a national consensus of tackling terrorism," he told newsmen, while harping once more on the need to revive Prevention of Terrorism Act, which the UPA government had repealed.
More bombs, which had failed to explode, were found in both Ahmedabad and Surat on Sunday. A sweeper found one in a garbage bin in Ahmedabad's Amraiwadi area. It was defused by the bomb squad. In Surat, a live bomb was discovered near Nupur Hospital and two explosives-laden cars were found abandoned in Poonagam and Hirabaug areas.
Police investigating the blasts have also found close similarities with the Jaipur blasts in May, last year's blasts in Hyderabad and the blast at the Sankatmochan Temple in Varanasi.
In all these cases, the explosives were assembled on a C-shaped casing and covered by a layer of ammonium nitrate and petroleum jelly. The bombs were stuffed with sharpnels like ball bearings and bolts, and topped with gelatine.
The explosions were triggered using an analog timer device attached to a nine-volt battery. The entire apparatus was then put in a wooden box and wrapped with plastic or paper and planted inside a plastic bag, which was hung from a bicycle.
Police are comparing post-blast videos of Jaipur blasts and the serial blasts here to establish further links.
(Inputs from Aloke Tikku, Rathin Das and Haresh Pandya)