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Sketches of terror suspects hardly of help

The handing over of the probe of Wednesday's blast from the Delhi Police to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) means the latter will have to go back to the drawing board, quite literally.
By Jatin Anand | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON SEP 09, 2011 01:40 AM IST

The handing over of the probe of Wednesday's blast from the Delhi Police to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) means the latter will have to go back to the drawing board, quite literally.

And the first thing the agency will have to redo is the sketches of the terror suspects. The new sketches will be prepared by the NIA's own men based on their questioning of witnesses of the high-intensity blast that shook Delhi High Court.

This is the first time the NIA is handling a terror probe.

While some senior officers of Delhi Police are worried that the old sketches released by it might not match the new ones, many others have welcomed the decision.

"We have been preparing sketches of suspects since the special cell came into existence in the late 1980s in the immediate aftermath of Operation Bluestar. But I don't really think a sketch has ever led us to a single terrorist," admitted a senior Delhi Police officer who did not want to be named.

A team of eight persons from the Delhi Police, under the supervision of an inspector, prepares sketches from over 48,000 specimens of 12 different 'sectors' of the human face.

A witness is made to go through, identify and help copy-paste each specimen based on his/her recollection of a face, usually viewed for a fraction of a second.

"What else can one expect of a person whose mind is clouded with painful memories? It's still possible to remember whether or not the suspect had a beard or not, but how can one remember everything from someone's hairstyle to the shape of the nose after looking at them for just a second or two?" the officer asked.

Sources claim majority of sketches — especially of terror suspects — that usually spring-up across the city before Republic Day or Independence Day are nothing but reproductions of earlier sketches with slight modifications.

"Some of these sketches have been in use for at least a decade now," said the officer.

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