23 bombs defused in Surat, India remains on edge


Surat/Ahmedabad/New Delhi : Just when Gujarat was returning to normalcy after 50 people were killed in Saturday’s serial bombings in Ahemdabad, 23 low-intensity bombs were recovered from Surat by Tuesday evening as cities across India remained on the edge.

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“It’s been only because of a vigilant public that we managed to reach in the nick of time and defuse them. We have asked people to avoid crowded areas,” said the city’s police commissioner R.M.S. Brar.

Brar ordered closure for the day of all cinema theatres, colleges, schools, malls and parks even as panic gripped people.

He also asked leaders of textile industry and diamond market associations to keep their businesses shut Wednesday.

Seventeen bombs were recovered Tuesday from Varachha area where a large number of diamond processing units are located. One bomb was recovered from the city outskirts in Mahinderpura.

Four bombs were found from Varachha two days ago and one more late Monday evening.

Tuesday morning, the first bomb was recovered from behind the Labeshwar police post when a provision store owner was opening his shop around 9 a.m. As he was pushing his shutters up a packet fell down. He immediately called the police and a team led by police inspector V.B. Patel reached the spot with the bomb disposal and dog squads.

A little later another bomb, placed inside an electric meter box, was recovered near the Baroda Bridge in Santoshnagar area close to a garment shop.

Later in the afternoon, a bomb was recovered near a peepul tree close to the Matawadi police post in Varachha. Even as cops were heaving a sigh of relief, they had to rush to Varachha’s mini diamond market where four more bombs were recovered.

Of the 17 bombs found from Varaccha area, three were placed precariously on an advertisement banner over a bridge.

Strangely, none of the detected bombs exploded, leading to various theories on whether the city was being used as a staging post and a cache by terrorists on their way to Ahmedabad.

On Sunday, two abandoned cars laden with explosive materials were found from Surat, Gujarat’s second largest city.

In Ahmedabad, investigators were yet to get a fix on the perpetrators behind the torrent of 21 blasts that rocked the city Saturday evening and were still rummaging the blast sites and questioning survivors for vital leads.

Abdul Halim, a Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) activist from Uttar Pradesh, was detained by the police for interrogation. Officials also said the arrest of three suspects from Surendranagar could provide some vital clues. The three were picked up soon after the blasts and handed over to the Ahmedabad police crime branch.

In New Delhi, the central government was contemplating to rewrite the Explosives Rules of 1983 so as to regulate the commercial usage, handling and sale of ammonium nitrate that has become the preferred choice of terror outfits for assembling explosives.

The commerce ministry was reportedly considering curbs on the potent and highly inflammable grades of the compound.

“We are trying to study the rules formulated by the US and the UK to regulate the usage and sale of explosives such as ammonium nitrate,” said an intelligence official.

Already under severe pressure for not being able to crack any of the 11 high-profile terror attacks in the country since the pre-Diwali blasts in Delhi in October 2005, home ministry officials were trying to work out an internal security doctrine that would be shared in the proposed conclave of the chief ministers.

There was an uneasy calm in Ahmedabad even as the day began on a bright note after Monday’s heavy rains.

“It seems as if the almighty has washed away our tears with the rain,” said Sattarbhai, owner of a pan shop in the Khanpur area.

Residents flocked newspaper stalls to learn new details of Saturday’s bomb blasts, which killed at least 50 people and left about 200 injured.

Sketches of the suspects behind the bomb blasts were printed in various newspapers.

Elsewhere, a middle-aged man was arrested for his alleged connection with the Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) from a southern West Bengal district.

“The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has arrested Mohammad Mustaq Ahmed from Raghunathganj area of Murshidabad district. The sleuths also seized some gelatine sticks and a laptop with some other objectionable documents,” West Bengal Inspector General (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told IANS.