Published On: Mon, Oct 28th, 2013

6 killed in 8 explosions as IM targets Modi’s Patna rally

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PATANA -The political campaign for the 2014 election took a frightening turn on Sunday when six persons were killed and around 100 injured at the crowded venue of Narendra Modi’s rally here in a suspected terror attack designed to inflict mass casualties.

Eight explosive devices with timers went off between 9.30am and 12.25pm as part of a serial bomb attack suspected to be the handiwork of Indian Mujahideen (IM). Four alleged operatives of the outfit have been detained, one of whom is in critical condition after being caught in a blast. During interrogation, they reportedly told the police that they had staged the attack in retaliation for the Muzaffarnagar riots. They are also said to have named the IM module involved in the Bodh Gaya blasts.

The names of the four detained are Imtiaz Ansari, Ainul, Akhtar and Kaleem. Ansari, a resident of Ranchi, was apprehended at the railway station just after the first two bombs went off. He was apparently planning to plant some more bombs but panicked when he saw the police and bomb disposal squad. On being challenged, he tried to flee but was arrested.

The investigators then got incredibly lucky. Ansari had been asked by his handlers not to carry a mobile phone. So he had jotted down phone numbers of a dozen conspirators on a piece of paper, which fell into the hands of the cops and helped them track down some of the others. One of them, Ainul, who is critical, was initially believed to be a victim of the railway station blasts before it emerged that he was also part of the conspiracy.

Six of the bombs went off inside and near Gandhi Maidan, the sprawling rally venue. The remaining two blasts took place inside a public convenience complex at Patna Junction when trains, including special ones hired by the BJP, were disgorging rallyists. The police officially said there was only one blast inside the railway station, but sources insisted there were two.

A bigger tragedy was averted only because the fortitude of the massive crowd ensured that there was no stampede: a horrific prospect that could have killed hundreds.

Modi and other BJP leaders helped. The Gujarat CM, who defied the advice of Gujarat Police to address the Hunkar rally, as well as other BJP leaders made no mention of the outrage in their speeches, with the crowds taking the exploding improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in their midst for firecrackers.

Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley apparently favoured going ahead with the rally without mentioning the blast as they feared that calling it off would have led to panic and a stampede.

The Hindutva leader, who spoke for less than an hour after the last explosion at Gandhi Maidan, ended his speech by exhorting the audience to maintain peace and unity at all costs. “There should be no stain on Bihar’s reputation and peace must be maintained across the country,” he said.

Reports from Ranchi said the Jharkhand police also detained two suspected IM operatives in this connection and seized explosives and a picture of Osama bin Laden from their possession.

Talking to reporters, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar confirmed that documents found on Ansari had given the investigators important leads. Kumar, who was attacked by the BJP for not providing security at the rally venue, said police were working on the basis of telephone numbers Ansari was carrying, and claimed that the case would be worked out shortly.

According to sources, Ansari and other members of the gang had ringed the venue with explosives in the morning when the participants had already started congregating. The explosives were planted in a clockwise manner, starting with a spot bang across the Police Control Room.

Sources quoted Ansari as telling his interrogators that the IM module took care not to plant the explosives in the night, fearing that dew would dampen the IEDs which were said to be similar to those used in the Bodh Gaya blasts.

Talking to reporters, the Bihar CM and his DGP Abhayanand were at pains to stress that there were no lapses on the government’s part. Kumar said the rally organizers were extended all assistance sought by them, adding that BJP had expressed no apprehension of a terror attack. The police chief also claimed that standard operating procedures laid down for the purpose were scrupulously followed.

However, BJP leaders accused them of laxity and indifference, saying that even elementary precaution — setting up adequate number of frisking points and anti-sabotage checks — was not taken.

Also, while the Bihar CM claimed that there was no intelligence alert, sources in the police said that IB had warned them about a possible terror attack on the rally.

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