Another mobile phone recovered from blast site


Hyderabad : Another mobile phone, a Nokia 6030, was found Sunday from the water tank of the Mecca Masjid along with pieces of the explosive device that went off Friday killing 11 people and injuring many others.

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A team of officials from the National Security Guards (NSG), forensic experts and bomb disposal squad combed through the scene of the blast at the 400-year-old mosque and recovered a mobile phone from the 'Wazu Khana', where worshippers wash their hands and face before prayers.

The tank was emptied in the presence of officials. Police sources said the Nokia handset, pieces of shrapnel and bits of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) were recovered from the tank. A cell phone of the same model was found attached to an unexploded bomb found and defused in the mosque premises on Friday.

Investigators are hoping to find clues about the perpetrators of the blast from the SIM card, which was reportedly bought in Kolkata.

Officials have not ruled out the possibility of the second phone belonging to one of the victims as the blast had occurred close to the water tank.

Police believe that Bangladesh-based terror group Harkat-ul Jihad Al Islami (HUJI) was behind the blast and its activist Mohammed Shahed alias Bilal, a native of Hyderabad, was its mastermind.

Bilal is believed to have triggered the blast from Bangladesh as a very sophisticated technology was used to detonate the IED, filled with a mixture of RDX and TNT. According to police, a phone call from anywhere in the world to the mobile attached to the IED is enough to trigger the blast.

Police hope to make some more progress by tracing the calls made or received from the mobile phone. Three-four locals are alleged to have helped Bilal, also the mastermind in the suicide blast at the police commissioner's task force office here in October 2005. One policeman was killed in that blast.

Meanwhile, the situation remained peaceful in the old city with no untoward incidents reported overnight.

Though markets remained closed on account of Sunday, buses of the state-owned Road Transport Corporation and vehicles were seen plying.

Undeterred by the events of last two days and the efforts of police to discourage big gatherings, dozens of people, mostly youth thronged the mosque for 'Zohar' or afternoon prayers on Sunday. The worshippers were frisked at the main entrance, where a metal detector was installed.

For the third consecutive day the mosque remained closed for tourists. The 17th century Mecca Masjid is a stone's throw away from Charminar, the 400-year-old symbol of Hyderabad.

Confusion continues over the number of deaths in the blast and police firing. While both the chief minister and home minister said 11 people were killed in the blast and five in police firing, Director General of Police M.A. Basit said the death toll stood at 14 – nine in the blast and five in police firing.

Police Commissioner Balwinder Singh said the situation was peaceful. "Despite attempts by five-six people to destabilise the city, people showed patience and restraint."

However, the police firing on the mob immediately after the blasts has come under sharp criticism. Policemen have been accused of using excessive force.

Autopsy reports said four of the victims of police firing were shot in the chest and abdomen and the bullets went through their bodies. The general norm is that police should aim below the waist level.

The state government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the police firing, but has defended the action saying it was necessary to prevent any major communal disturbance.

Meanwhile, Home Minister K. Jana Reddy denied Sunday that Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy had apologised for the police firing. Jana Reddy said the chief minister did not apologise, but only assured he would look into the complaints of some people that excessive force was used.

The chief minister had earlier clarified that closed-circuit cameras and other security systems installed at the main entrance of the mosque were removed following objections from clerics and community elders. The community elders had requested that the cameras and security personnel be removed and alleged that police were treating all Muslim youths as terrorists.

Rajasekahara Reddy said the cameras and metal detectors could be installed again in consultation with Muslim leaders. He said the government would soon evolve a security mechanism for all important places of worship in the state.

Friday's blast triggered apprehensions that the old city could once again plunge into serious communal disturbance. Founded 400 years ago, it is home to half the city's four million population and has witnessed communal riots in 1970s and 1980s. But no major violence has occurred since 1990, when communal frenzy had claimed over 200 lives.

Muslims constitute 40 percent of the total population and 70 percent of the old city.