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24/7 control room,private experts,data from Delhi hotels: massive probe casts net wide

This is the first time that a dedicated control room has been set up for investigation purposes.

Written by Rahul Tripathi | New Delhi | September 11, 2011 1:49:20 am

Shaken by a second strike at the heart of the Capital within three months,the government has launched a massive exercise to hunt down the perpetrators of Wednesday’s high court blast,involving nearly 200 personnel,setting up a 24/7 command and control room in North Block,calling in private experts for help on the technical side,and asking states to set up their own groups.

This is the first time that a dedicated control room has been set up for investigation purposes. Located in the home ministry and headed by a senior official,the control room is working round the clock,collating reports by bodies like the Multi-Agency Centre and states in order to cut time spent in coordination.

The scope and spread of the mobilisation is unprecedented in a terror probe so far.

The NIA brass met home ministry officials last night and sought to set up a makeshift office near the blast site. Another office is being set up at the CGO complex,where several other agencies have their offices.

The NIA,which had initially tasked a 20-member team with the probe,now has nearly 10 times more personnel on the job. Teams are being added in the states every day. Teams have been divided into 24 groups and sub-groups.

A dedicated technical group has been constituted to examine,monitor and analyse mobile phone call records and emails. Here,experts from the private sector have been called in for help. The fourth email claiming responsibility for the blast,received on Friday,has been traced to West Bengal — same as the second email.

In studying the emails claiming responsibility,NIA cyber experts are coordinating with Google and Yahoo. A legal assistance system is being put in place so that probe agencies receive real-time information from service providers in future.

Help is being taken from foreign agencies for analysis of conversations on communication tools like Skype. “We have so far not been able to detect these conversations,” an official said.

A separate team is looking into dossiers of the Indian Mujahideen. Other teams are examining the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami and Sikh groups. Another team is going through dossiers of terror suspects caught in India and abroad.

In another mammoth exercise,the Delhi Police has asked hotel owners and guesthouses across the city to submit CCTV recordings of seven days leading to the blast and of the day after,which would be compared with recordings collected from these places of the days around the May 25 attack at the High Court.

While the May 25 blast didn’t cause much damage,the CCTV footage,as well as data from diaries and registers maintained by hotels and guesthouses for May 23,24,25 and 26 had been retained.

“We will compare the footage and diaries for any common links like a person or a handwriting,” said a senior police officer.

DIG Mukesh Singh,who is heading the investigation,is coordinating with different teams. Another SP-level officer is handling coordination with the Anti-Terrorism Squads of Uttar Pradesh,Maharashtra and some other states.

The description provided by a third witness who claimed to have seen a man placing the explosive-laden briefcase between two queues outside the court has matched the version of the witness on whose description a sketch was prepared. The East Delhi resident had said he saw a man wearing a safari suit put down a grey briefcase and melt into the crowd.

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