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Malegaon, Modasa parallel: timing, bikes and the target

The crude but powerful bomb that exploded at 9.35 pm on Monday in the powerloom town of Malegaon killed four Muslims...

Written by Smitanair | Malegaon |
October 1, 2008 1:10:23 am

The crude but powerful bomb that exploded at 9.35 pm on Monday in the powerloom town of Malegaon killed four Muslims in a locality crowded with people who had broken their Ramzan fasts. The victims were an eight-year-old girl who had stepped out of her house to have pakoras, a 15-year-old boy and two men.

The blast at Bhikku Chowk came two years to the month when three explosions hit Muslim worshippers barely half a kilometre away and killed 37 people. While the bombs in 2006 were placed on bicycles, Monday’s device was placed on a motorcycle which police said had been put together with parts and an engine from different vehicles and bore the brand name “Freedom”. It is suspected to have a stolen number plate. The bomb was kept under the seat, just behind the engine.

The motorcycle was parked near a row of shops, directly beneath the first floor office of SIMI. The office had been sealed after the organisation was banned in 2001. The 2006 blasts were blamed on SIMI and nine people were arrested but the trial in the case has been stayed by the Supreme Court over a legal challenge.

Police said they had no immediate suspects in the latest incident. On whether Hindu hardliners were suspected, Sanjeev Dayal, Maharashtra’s Additional Director-General of Police (Law and Order), told The Indian Express: “At this stage we cannot rule out the possibility. All angles are being explored.”

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The explosion sparked chaos and brought hundreds of angry Muslims out into the streets. They pelted stones at policemen and Home Guards and police fired 58 rounds in the air to disperse them which only enraged the mob further. Eventually, curfew was imposed around midnight and lifted at 6 am Tuesday by when the situation had come under control.

About 80 civilians, most of them Muslims, and 35 policemen and Home Guards and an IPS probationer were injured in the blast and subsequent mob violence. Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil visited the town on Tuesday along with top state police officials and appealed for peace.

“Over 20,000 people gathered at the spot where the blast took place. We have rushed the State Reserve Police Force to Malegaon,” Patil, who also holds the Home portfolio, told reporters. “At this moment it is difficult to say whether the blast was an accident or a deliberate ploy to create panic,” he said, adding an Anti-Terrorism Squad team has also rushed to the spot.

Javed Attharwala, a shopkeeper who sells traditional perfumes near the blast site, claimed that he had noticed the unidentified bike around 8.30 pm — it exploded at 9.35 pm —- and reported it to the Dargah police post nearby but no action was taken. Police officials were not willing to comment on the claim but Patil said, “If indeed a complaint like this was made and was ignored, then action will be taken against the erring policeman. It is really sad if it was brought to our notice and we did not act upon it.”

Attharwala was badly injured in the explosion and was one of the first to reach the local hospital minutes later. “He was burned from head to toe and had injuries all over his arms and face. He came walking all by himself,” said Dr Sayed Ahmed of Noor Hospital, where 18 patients with burn injuries and trauma were admitted.

According to preliminary forensic investigations, the bomb contained rusted ball bearings, iron pellets and balls, and broken, sharp pieces of metal sheets. “About 2-3 kg of explosives seem to have been used,” said state forensic expert Dhananjay Mohite who inspected the scene of the incident.

Police also said that the number plate of the motorbike belonged to a vehicle which had been sold two years back, the engine and the main frame were from different vehicles. This, experts believed, may have been done to prevent police from tracing the chassis number of the vehicle.

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