The Indian Mujahideen terrorists who set off the deadly twin blasts in Hyderabad on Thursday, may have spent less than Rs 600 on each of the bombs that killed 16 people and caused damage to property worth crores of rupees.
Worse, they may have just bought most of the raw material by coolly walking across to the corner hardware store! The most vital part of the bomb, ammonium nitrate, is sold in many shops as a fertiliser. The chemical compound, when mixed with a hydrocarbon (fuel), makes a potent explosive mixture
According to experts probing the blasts, it is next to impossible to prevent a terrorist from stocking up on all the raw materials. This is not the first time ammonium nitrate has been used in a terror attack either. It was found at the Pune bomb blast site (August 2012), during the triple blasts in Mumbai (Opera House, Dadar and Zaveri Bazar in July 2011), at the German bakery blast site in Pune (February 2010) and in the serial blasts in Jaipur in 2008.
Is it possible to regulate the sale of ammonium nitrate?
Speaking to SMD, Dr Rukmini Krishnamurthy, former Director State Forensics Laboratory and ex-technical advisor for the state government said she has sent numerous reminders to both the state and the Union Home Ministry about the open sale of the compound. “Ammonium nitrate, which is easily available in chemical shops, is used as a fertiliser and an oxidising agent in laboratories. However, when mixed with a hydrocarbon (fuel), it makes a potent explosive mixture.”
DK Aruna, Information and Broadcasting minister, Andhra Pradesh government agreed when she said, “The state cabinet met soon after the blast and this issue (restricted sale of ammonium nitrate) will surely be discussed in the coming cabinet meeting. We have to take precautionary steps to avert a similar incident in future. We will surely write to the Central Home ministry on the same.”
When contacted, Maharashtra State Director General of Police Sanjeev Dayal said: “We have already conveyed our fears to the Union Home Ministry and they are looking at it. Any such restriction or regulation has to come from the central government.”
While attempts to contact Union home secretary R K Singh did not yield any results, sources in the Home Ministry said that Centre was planning to implement a system to check the usage and over the counter sale of ammonium nitrate.
However, a senior ATS officer from Maharashtra felt restricting the sale of ammonium nitrate would not make any difference. “Whenever restrictions have been put in the form of licensing or regulated sale of a particular item, it has only led to malpractices and black-market sale of the item.”
But the government at least seems serious about the matter. State Home Minister (minister of state) Satej Patil told SMD, “We have taken up this issue with the Central government and are trying to understand the usage before coming up with a solution to restrict the sale of ammonium nitrate.”
Soon after the blast, the Andhra Pradesh government announced an exgratia payment of Rs 6 lakhs towards next of kin killed, and Rs 6 lakhs to those who became permanent disabled, around Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh each to those who sustained minor injures.
PM Manmohan Singh too announced that Rs 2 lakh would be paid to the next of the kin of the dead and Rs 50,000 to those seriously injured from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. The loss to property would also run into a few crores.
The terrorists may well have spent less than Rs 1,000.
What the terrorists used
>> Ammonium Nitrate — 5 Kgs @R25 to R35 per kg
>> Remote Timer — a digital alarm clock costing Rs 100 or a washing machine timer costing approximate R200.
>> Petroleum hydrocarbon oil — either diesel oil or furnace oil costing approximate R52.46 per litre in Hyderabad. (5 litres cost R262)
>> Splinters — nuts, bolts, nails etc worth approximately R100 - 200
‘Ammonium Nitrate was key ingredient’
The Central Forensics Laboratory, Hyderabad has confirmed the usage of Ammonium Nitrate and petroleum hydrocarbon in the twin blast.
Speaking to SMD Dr O Murthy, Director FSL, Hyderabad said, “We have just started getting the samples from the scene of the incident and the splinters which were removed from the injured. So far we have found ammonium nitrate as the key ingredient. However it would take another three days for us to conclude our tests and submit a detailed report to the police.”