November 15, 2008 1:27:24 am
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) suspects that Lt Col Prasad Purohit supplied the RDX that was used in the Samjhauta Express blast on February 18, 2007 that killed 68 passengers.
The ATS suspects Purohit supplied the explosive to a person named ‘Bhagwan’ who is believed to be a link in the bomb blasts.
Seeking an extension of police custody of Purohit, Special Prosecutor for Maharashtra ATS Ajay Misar told a Nashik court that a witness in the Malegaon blast case told the agency that Purohit had claimed he had 60 kg of RDX in his possession which he had got from J&K.
Misar said: “When Purohit was stationed at the Deolali army camp, he had gone to Jammu and Kashmir on official work and is believed to have got 60 kg of RDX and a part of it was given to this link ‘Bhagwan’, who used it in the Samjhauta train blast. The ATS is probing his involvement.”
“Purohit handed over the RDX to Bhagwan who is suspected to be in hiding in the garb of a godman. So Bhagwan is a key link and we hope to learn about his whereabouts and antecedents in the three-day remand given,” Misar told The Indian Express.
The ATS also said that Purohit—along with Pragya Thakur and Dayanand Pandey—is suspected to have played a key role not only in the Malegaon blast of September 29 but in other blasts as well.
The witness, whose statement had been recorded, had said that Purohit showed him two small brown bags containing RDX, which he said he had recovered from J&K, Misar added.
However, Purohit in his statement to the ATS said that he had thrown the 60 kg of RDX into the Jhelum river instead of depositing it in the army depot.
The ATS is also probing the role of a Nashik-based builder who was paid Rs 2.5 lakh by Ajay Rahirkar at the behest of Purohit. The police have already said that funds amounting to lakhs were routed to Rahirkar through hawala channels. Rahirkar, in turn, transferred part of it to Pandey and Purohit’s accounts.
The Haryana police probing the Samjhauta blast (which happened in Panipat in Haryana) are now counting on finding new clues when they get to question Mahant Amritanand alias Dayanand Pandey on Sunday.
The Samjhauta probe trail had reached a dead-end in Indore, but the initial line of investigations was very SIMI-centric as several SIMI leaders including Safdar Nagori came from that area.
Madhya Pradesh police officials involved in the probe last year said that when a SIMI connection failed to emerge, suggestions were made to examine the possible involvement of Hindu right wing groups, but it was not taken up then. Haryana police confirmed the SIMI angle was ruled out after investigations.
A mix of high- and low-intensity explosives was used in the blast on the Indo-Pak friendship train which killed 68 — 42 of them Pakistanis. While a larger quantity of Potassium Chlorate and Sulphur were used to create the bomb, minor quantities of RDX were also found in the bomb, Dr. R K Koshal, ballistic expert from Haryana’s Forensic Science Laboratory confirmed. The use of RDX in ‘traces’ was also seen in explosives used in Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad in May 2007 and also in the Malegaon blast.
“There was RDX in traces in the suitcase bomb on the Samjhauta Express and that much was enough for the blast mechanism,” said Kaushal.
ADG Haryana V N Rai who is heading the Samjhauta blast probe, however, said that there is still no major breakthrough in the investigation.”We are closely monitoring the situation and are in touch with Mumbai ATS. Our probe status still stands at Indore”, Rai said.
The bombers had purchased the suitcases from Indore’s Kothari market. Investigations had found that the ‘Kodak’ brand suitcases used in the explosion on the train were purchased from the Abhinandan Bag Centre in Kothari Market while a tailor who sat opposite the bag centre stitched the suitcase covers. That apart, the pipe-bomb shells, Super Saurabh plastic boxes in which the IED was packed were also bought from the same area. Two of the accused in the Malegaon blasts are from Indore.
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