A little-known group called the Islamic Security Force-Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for Thursday’s serial blasts in Assam in SMSes sent to media organisations here on Friday.
The SMS said, “We, ISF-IM, take the responsibility of yesterday blast. We warn all of Assam and India for situation like this in future. We thank all our holy members and partners. AAamin.”
The police tracked the Reliance mobile number 9864693690 to Nazim Ahmed of Moirabari in Nagaon district.
Ahmed had purchased the SIM card from Babul Ali, a retailer who runs a PCO named Hi-Fi at Moirabari. The police said Babul was detained and all documents related to the PCO have been seized, but were not sure how IM came to be tagged with ISF.
The ISF, officials said, was formed in the early part of 2002 in the ‘char’ (sandbar) areas heavily populated by migrants, including many suspected of being from Bangladesh, in Dhubri and Goalpara districts.
The group is believed to be an offshoot of older Islamist outfits such as the Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Asom.
It was formed mostly by ex-activists of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The group is backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence to fan jihad along the border areas, officials said.
The outfit’s claim, though “under investigation”, followed the arrest of one Ajibur Rahman at Tezpur on Thursday. Rahman is an activist of the Muslim United Students Association.
This outfit was formed prior to the Muslim-Bodo riots in Udalguri and Darrang districts last month. “He (Rahman) was caught with handmade explosives and we are trying to get more out of him,” said Sonitpur Superintendent of Police Surendra Kumar.
Meanwhile, the security forces launched a manhunt on Friday picking up four persons from Nagaon district as the death toll in Thursday’s serial blasts rose to 77.
“We have detained Zulfikar Ali and Arif Mohammed Nizamin alias Anthony from Juria for questioning as well as Emrul Haque from Lanka town,” said Nagaon police chief Nitul Gogoi. According to deputy commissioner J Balaji, a motorbike used by Anthony had the same registration number as the Maruti 800 car used in one of the three blasts in Guwahati.
“Anthony is an agent of HDFC Bank, and he helped Emrul buy a motorbike although Lanka is not in his jurisdiction. The bike was bought in the name of Zulfikar of Juria,” Balaji added, saying the three were being interrogated for possible link in Thursday’s serial blasts.
Juria, incidentally, is the native place of Nanhe Mian, one of the main accused in the Godhra train arson case.
The death toll rose to 77 with 10 persons succumbing to injuries at Gauhati Medical College Hospital since Thursday night and another at Barpeta Road.
Of these, 43 died in the three major blasts in Guwahati, 21 at Kokrajhar and 13 at Barpeta Road. “The condition of many of the injured is still critical,” said GMCH superintendent P Bhattacharyya.
Friday also saw a string of protests from various citizen’s groups and students’ bodies protesting the government’s failure in pre-empting terror.
The public show of anger coincided with the visits of Central leaders such as Union home minister Shivraj Patil, LK Advani, Brinda Karat and Basudeb Acharjee. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to visit on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the VHP and BHP called for a statewide, 12-hour bandh on Saturday while the All Assam Students Union has given a 24-hour bandh call on Monday.