October 23, 2008 1:07:17 pm
The Maharashtra police are said to have cracked the September 29 bomb blasts in Malegaon and Modasa town in neighbouring Gujarat saying these were allegedly carried out by the Hindu Jagran Manch, an Indore-based Hindu extremist group known to have links to the BJP’s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). The key suspects are being questioned, top Maharashtra Police sources have told The Indian Express.
Five Muslims were killed in a powerful blast in the communally sensitive textile town of Malegaon in Maharashtra and one Muslim boy was killed in the explosion in Modasa in Sabarkantha district.
Both bombs were placed on motorcycles parked in crowded areas days before Eid and set off after Muslims had broken their Ramzan fast on a Monday evening.
The BJP had condemned both the blasts. Investigators initially suspected Islamist groups such as SIMI or the Indian Mujahideen to be behind the near-simultaneous attacks — the first blast was at Modasa at 9.26 pm, the second minutes later in Malegaon — as they came in the aftermath of blasts in Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi.
Besides, the motorcycle in Malegaon was parked below the now-defunct first floor office of SIMI while the one used in Modasa had Islamic stickers on its seat.
However, investigators found that these were apparently attempts by the attackers to mislead them, the sources said.
The breakthrough, they said, came when they traced the origin of the two-wheeler used in Malegaon. The vehicle used was a LML Freedom brand although some of its parts had been cannibalised from other vehicles and the chassis and engine numbers had been erased.
But with this brand out of production, dealer records and help from forensic experts led the probe to Gujarat, the sources said.
The motorcycle was allegedly owned by a man with an “ABVP background” there while the attackers belonged to the Hindu Jagran Manch with its headquarters based out of the office of an NGO in Indore, investigators found.
Top Maharashtra police officials confirmed the breakthrough but refused to go on record due to the sensitivities involved, adding that Central agencies were aware of the development.
The blast in Malegaon had sparked mob violence as angry Muslims targeted the local police and grievously injured the first policemen to arrive at the site, including a probationary IPS officer.
The attack came two years to the month when three bombs had exploded in and around a mosque in the town and killed 37 people, mostly Muslim worshippers.
That attack was blamed on SIMI and nine men were arrested but the trial has been stayed by the Supreme Court.