Intelligence agencies on backfoot, terror modules on all-time high

Sep 08, 2011, 07:45 IST | Mohit Sharma

None of the more recent terror attacks, such as Mehrauli and Jama Masjid, have been cracked

None of the more recent terror attacks, such as Mehrauli and Jama Masjid, have been cracked

Reported use of research department explosive (RDX) or pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) and suggested role of suicide bomber in Wednesday's attack clearly suggest the level of motivation of terrorists and vulnerability of our intelligence agencies. Deviating from the sole use of ammonium nitrate (which is easily available), this time terrorists used major explosives to cause mayhem.

Innocent victims: Injured people being taken to hospital from outside
the High Court, in New Delhi on Wednesday. PICs/Subhash Barolia

"The Delhi serial blasts in 2007, then in 2008, and then a trail of unsolved low-intensity blasts gave the impression that no trained module was at play in the Capital. Today's incident, however, has taken the city security back to the days when terrorism was at its peak," said a senior police officer.

The shameful fact is that Delhi Police hasn't been able to crack any of the low-intensity blasts-Mehrauli, Jama Masjid and Delhi HC-which might have encouraged the assailants even further. To some extent, Delhi Police's attitude towards terrorism has not been up to the mark. There is literally no motivation within the special cell, Delhi Police's anti-terrorist wing.

Linked to PM's visit?
Is it terrorist group Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami's answer to the Indian Prime Minister's peace visit to Bangladesh? While the two nations chalked out strategies for peaceful co-existence, in Bangladesh, Delhi was a witness to one of the most well-planned and executed terror incidents in the recent past.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while on his two-day visit to Bangladesh, said, "I have heard the sad news from Delhi. This is a cowardly act of terrorist nature, but we will deal with it. We will never succumb to the pressure of terrorism."

The PM said he had been in touch with Home Minister P Chidambaram, but cautioned that it was "too early" to pinpoint the mastermind. The visit was being anticipated as important in resolving bilateral issues between the two nations. "Problems like water-sharing, migration and border demarcation were some of the problems on the agenda and today's incident may act as a deterrent," said source.

Bomb composition
Secretary, Internal Security, U K Bansal, while briefing the media on the progress made in the blast probe, said the explosion created a small crater at the spot. "The examination of the scene of blast indicates towards the use of nitrate-based explosives with traces of PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate)," he said.

PETN is one of the deadliest explosives used by terrorists across the globe. It was used in the Shoe Bomber case of 2001 in the US, in 2009 Christmas Day bomb plot in the Philippines, and in the 2010 cargo plane bomb plot in London and Dubai. Besides the 4 kg of chemicals, the bomb was fitted with an electronic timer device, improvised electronic device (IED) and shrapnel.

NIA forms team
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has formed a 20-member team to investigate the terror attack. A notification was issued by the Union Home Ministry under the NIA Act, handing over the probe to the specialised anti-terror agency. This is the first case handed over directly to the NIA, which was set up in the aftermath of November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Delhi Police and the state government have been asked by the Home Ministry to associate themselves with the NIA in the probe. The NIA chief said a Special Investigation Team, headed by Deputy Inspector General Mukesh Kumar with Superintendent of Police Nitish Kumar as Chief Investigating Officer, has been set up.

A series of high-level review meetings were convened in the Home Ministry, which was attended by top officials, including Home Secretary R.K. Singh and senior Intelligence Bureau officials.

Eyewitness account
Mahender Tyagi, a businessman from Burari, had come for the hearing of a case. Tyagi claimed to have seen the accused, who brought the briefcase. According to him, the accused was wearing a white shirt, had curly hair, was tall, looked somewhat like a Bollywood actor. Tyagi said he was in a queue when he noticed the man keep the briefcase near window number 2 and 3. A minute later, it exploded.

Ajay Aggarwal, an advocate at Supreme Court, said he was near gate number 5 at the time of the incident. "I was at the entry gate. After the explosion, I turned back and saw flesh spread all over. People were standing in a haphazard manner, which led to more casualties," he said.

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