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When death struck the tracks

Exactly a year ago, seven RDX-based bombs ripped through first-class compartments of suburban trains at rush hour, killing 187 people and injuring 890, writes Abhishek Sharan.
Hindustan Times | By Abhishek Sharan, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JUL 11, 2007 12:25 AM IST

Exactly a year ago, seven RDX-based bombs ripped through first-class compartments of suburban trains at rush hour, killing 187 people and injuring 890. The Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) has arrested 13 people for planning and executing the attack. They belong to either the Lashkar-e-Toiba or the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

The attack, according to the then police chief AN Roy and ATS chief KP Raghuvanshi, was masterminded by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and executed by the Lashkar with SIMI’s help. The ATS submitted a 10,667-page chargesheet on November 30, 2006, listing 2,037 witnesses.

The accused

The 13 accused include the alleged masterminds, Lashkar’s western India ‘commander’ Faisal Shaikh and former SIMI head Asif Khan Basheer Khan alias Junaid. The third mastermind, Lashkar’s India chief Azam Cheema, is absconding and is believed to be at his fortified residence-cum-training-facility in Pakistan’s Bahawalpur district.

There are 15 absconding accused. Of them, seven are the Pakistani bombers — Aslam, Hafizullah, Saabir, Abu Bakr, Kasam Ali, Ammu Jaan and Abu Hasan. Another named Ehsanullah allegedly brought 15 to 20 kg of RDX and helped in the bomb-making.

Other absconders include Faisal’s brother Rahil (now in the UK), Rizwan Dawre (in Saudi Arabia), Abdul Razak and Sohail Shaikh (in Pakistan), Hafiz Zuber and Abdul Rehman (in Nepal). Two Pakistani bombers, Abu Osama and Mohammed Salim, died in the blasts.

The evidence

The evidence includes handles of pressure cookers found from three blast sites, swabs of RDX recovered from Mohammed Ali’s Govandi residence, Faisal’s flat and the Maruti van that transported bombers. Other evidence include electric components used to make the bombs, computers and call records. There is also the money, 37,000 Saudi riyals, found in Faisal’s house. The money was allegedly sent by Cheema through hawala.

The conspiracy

The conspiracy, according to the ATS, was hatched in February 2006 by Cheema and Faisal, mainly through e-mail exchanges that the latter destroyed before his arrest. The initial list of targets included the Bombay Stock Exchange, Siddhivinayak Temple and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. They finally settled on suburban trains as a target as they felt the rail network was the least secure. Also, hitting it meant crippling Mumbai’s lifeline and ultimately hurting the country’s economic nerve centre.

Azam roped in Junaid to handle logistics and train operatives. Azam also decided to send Pakistani bombers to Mumbai. Between February and April 2006, the plan was fine-tuned at meetings called by Faisal at his Bandra house and attended by most of the 13 accused.

Between May 25 and June 25, 11 Pakistani Lashkar operatives, nine of them bombers, arrived in the city. They were accommodated at Faisal’s house and at Junaid’s Mira Road apartment. The bombs, according to the chargesheet, were made at accused Mohammed Ali’s Govandi residence on July 8, 9 and 10 and stored at Faisal’s Bandra house. They were carted in taxis to Churchgate station, from where the bombers boarded the trains.

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