Three bags filled with nearly 145 kg of highly explosive ammonium nitrate were recovered from a car whose driver and other passengers fled on seeing the police at a checkpost in Varanasi on Saturday. No one has been arrested so far.
The city, which has witnessed bomb blasts set off by terrorists in the past, is Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency now.
Police recovered the explosives at the Dafi toll barrier on the National Highway-2 on the city outskirts during a vehicle checking drive that was being carried out a day after a high alert was declared in Varanasi and other key places in UP following intelligence reports about increased terrorist activity.
Before police could reach the vehicle, the four passengers escaped from the Maruti 800 car (UP 65 Q 5544) in which the ammonium nitrate was kept.
Police found a driving licence in the vehicle. The licence was issued in the name of one Bilesh, resident of Rohtas district, Bihar. A search has been launched for those who fled the car. According to police, the car was on way to Bihar when it was searched at the busy toll barrier.
"Investigation is going on and we are trying to locate passengers who left the car at the toll barrier," said Prakash D, inspector general of police, Varanasi zone.
Varanasi police have passed on the information to Rohtas police, asking them to locate the address of Bilesh on the basis of the driving license recovered from the vehicle.
"A police team will soon be sent to Rohtas to investigate the case. As the driving licence was issued from Rohtas, the suspects definitely have a connection with Bihar," said a senior police officer.
Varanasi has been on the radar of terrorists in recent years.
At least two major bomb explosions rocked the city on March 7, 2006, one of them at the Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple. The other explosion that day took place at the Varanasi Cantoment railway station. At least 28 people were killed and 101 others injured in the blasts.
Over a year later, there were three explosions on the Varanasi civil court and collectorate premises, killing 11 people on November 23, 2007.
In December 2010, another explosion took place at Sheetla Ghat, next to the Dashashwamedh Ghat on the banks of the Ganga, killing a toddler.