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Trail of terror

For the investigators, the blast site in Hyderabad had the usual grisly remains, writes Neelesh Misra.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2006 03:59 IST

For the investigators, the blast site in Hyderabad had the usual grisly remains: the suicide bomber’s blown-up body, pieces of cloth drenched with blood, and a torn handwritten note. However, they noticed something else too — a pair of leather slippers, with the price label still intact: “TK 200”.

The 200-taka pair, bought in Bangladesh and found hundreds of miles away at the site of the October 2005 bombing  in Hyderabad, is now seen as a landmark piece of evidence. Investigators say the discovery led them to a person who was acting as a guide for illegal immigrants on the India-Bangladesh border. He took the investigators back to the city — to the man who had allegedly conspired in the bombing. Both were arrested.

Earlier, Bangladesh was seen only as a faraway refuge for anti-India groups. But, for the first time, the chain of events brought Bangladeshi militants into the terror net in India. Officials said that their involvement has been suspected in at least one major, and some minor, attacks.

However, a senior Bangladeshi diplomat at the High Commission in New Delhi denied the allegations, and said India had given his country no specific information so far on what it called the involvement of Bangladeshi citizens in Indian terror attacks. “If someone is doing it, it would be on his own. The government is not connected with this. We have carried out a lot of anti-terrorist activities. Why should we send terrorists?” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Whenever an incident happens, it is easy to blame it on someone else.”

Months after the Hyderabad explosion, allegations of the involvement of Bangladeshi nationals emerged again during the Varanasi blasts probe, which killed 14 people and wounded more than 100. After initially doubting Pakistani groups, investigators retracted when an accused — arrested on charges of conspiring with three bombers — said that they were from Bangladesh. A security official in New Delhi said that investigators were “100 per cent certain” that the attackers were Bangladeshis and not Pakistanis.

“Bangladesh has been on the terror radar for some time, but the evidence became stronger now,” said Vikram Sood, the former chief of Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency. But, Mumbai’s Police Commissioner Anami Narayan Roy told the Hindustan Times that no arrests of Bangladeshi nationals had been made over any terror attack but, “We are aware that some people have come in from the Bangladesh border and they are intending to come to Bombay for this kind of activity.”

Meanwhile, the police said that the suicide bomber in Hyderabad was Mohtisin Billa, a man seemingly in his early twenties, with a scar on his chin and a pencil moustache. Investigators think the explosion took place at the STF headquarters because the local anti-terrorism force was seen as unfairly targeting Muslims in its operations.

“There's no question that extremist movements have more of a presence in Bangladesh now than they had in the past,” Teresita C. Schaffer, director for South Asia at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told HT.