The discovery of a sham explosive device in a garbage bin near Andheri’s Infiniti mall yesterday erupted into tumult as panic gripped the city, which has witnessed several terror attacks in the past. Reverberations reached the Home Ministry in Delhi and calls were made to the Amboli police station here. Teams from Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, Crime Branch, Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) and a dog squad reached the spot to find out whether the device was actually an explosive.
The entire drama unfolded after, around noon, Bala Panchkarvi, a refuse cleaner, spotted the object with aluminium pipes wrapped in black and red cloth pieces along with electrical circuit. Panchkarvi who sanitises the garbage bin daily, picked the device up with his bare hands and set it aside next to the divider opposite the Hyundai showroom at Adarsh Nagar signal on Oshiwara Link Road. “At first I thought it was a toy, but it was heavy. On picking it up and examining it I saw that it looked like a bomb and got scared. I panicked and left it on the road,” he said.
Full blast ahead
At 12.05 pm, Panchkarvi called up the police control room and alerted them. As soon as Amboli police station received the information, officers from there and Oshiwara police station rushed to the spot. The officers cordoned off the area and called in the BDDS from Vakola in Santacruz (East) and LT Marg. By the time BDDS members arrived, Infinity mall wore a deserted look and a crowd had gathered outside the cordon to catch a glimpse of the ‘action’. Residents of nearby buildings like Dheeraj Heights too had taken up comfortable vantage points.
The BDDS officers arrived at 1 pm and covered the ‘bomb’ with special pillows. For more than two hours cops tried to figure out whether the device comprised any explosive material. The object was scanned and X-rays were taken, but no conclusion could be reached. Even the dog squad from Goregaon failed to end the dilemma. “The object appears to be assembled. On the face of it we assume that it is a dummy. However, we cannot take chances,” said Vijay Thombre from BDDS, while inspecting the contraption. BDDS officers then put on their bomb-protection suits and examined the device closely, perceiving that it had red and green buttons on it.
“I appraised the bomb and then carefully cut the wires and disconnected the circuit system from it. There were hollow aluminum sticks with wooden sticks in them, wrapped with black adhesive tape,” Thombre said. As BDDS officers flashed a victory reaction, locals, who had been holding their breath, screamed out with joy and shouted out slogans like ‘Mumbai police zindabad’, believing a terror attack had been averted.
Bang to bust
“We then called up the truck carrying the garbage to the dumping ground at Oshiwara and asked it to wait there. A police team rushed to the dumping ground and searched through the refuse to find out whether there was any other explosive. We did not find any,” said PI Vivek Shende from Amboli police station. “Such objects are used in film shoots. An inquiry will be conducted, only after which we will register a case,” said Pratap Dighavkar, deputy commissioner of police (zone IX). As the news flashed on TV channels, an officer from Amboli police station got a call from the home ministry in Delhi, asking him for details about the ‘bomb’.
“We got many calls from our family members and even from the Home Ministry, which asked us why we hadn’t informed officials there about the explosive,” said an officer from Amboli police station. Cops are now probing how the device reached the spot and who dropped it there. “The garbage in the dustbin is collected from across Lokhandwala and Oshiwara. So it is difficult to answer these questions right now,” said Shende.