Besides preventive steps, gather credible intel

Besides preventive steps, gather credible intel

The bomb blast on Church Street on December 28, being the fifth explosion in Bengaluru in about a decade and the third in that area, has caused much concern. Coming a few days before the start of New Year revelries, residents are wondering whether this could have been prevented.

According to media reports, the blast took place in front of an eatery at 8.30 pm. The Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was said to have been placed behind potted plants, and that it was a pipe containing nails. It was a low intensity explosion going by its impact – one killed and a few injured.

It would be of interest to know how an IED is made. A bomb has a metallic container in which explosive chemicals and metallic objects (which later fly at great speeds in all directions) are packed. The detonation is initiated electrically or chemically. A timer is included to set the time of blast. When the charge gets ignited, tremendous pressure is generated breaking the container and dispersing the shrapnel at great speed which hit objects nearby with tremendous force.

Many IEDs have analog watches as timers. In such devices, the explosion takes place within 12 hours of the bomb being placed. In an earlier case, the Bengaluru Police found timer devices which are Integrated Circuit Chips (ICC). Bombs containing such devices can be timed to explode anytime. However, such devices are not used frequently because due to passage of time, the batteries or chemicals may not work effectively. It can, therefore, be surmised that the bomb on Church Street must have been placed on the morning of the blast. The next question is who placed this bomb?

Let’s consider the earlier blasts in Bengaluru: The first blast took place the same day in 2005 – at the Indian Institute of Science, wherein apart from blasting explosives, the terrorists went on a shooting spree killing one and injuring four. In this case, nine accused were named, of them five Pakistanis, including Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who is very much in the news now. Only one person, Sabahuddin, has been arrested and the case is in the court.

The next blast took place on July 25, 2008. A series of bombs exploded in the city. These bombs were of low intensity, killing two and injuring 20. The police recovered one unexploded bomb and learnt that an ICC timer was used. They said that cell phones might have been used to carry out the blasts.

In these several cases, 31 accused were named. Most of them are from Kerala. Abdul Nazeer Maudani, who was an accused in the Coimbatore serial blast cases has been named in these cases too, and they are being heard by an NIA court.

The third blast occurred during a 20:20 cricket match at the Chinnaswamy Stadium  on April 17, 2010. The bombs were again crude ones of low intensity and were wrapped in a newspaper. The newspaper gave a clue to the investigators. The role of Indian Mujahiddeen was established in the investigation and the case was chargesheeted in July 2012, wherein 14 accused including Riaz and Yasin Bhatkal of the IM were named. Yasin has now been arrested.

The fourth blast took place in Malleswaram in front of BJP office on April 17, 2013. In this case, an explosive was kept in a motor cycle parked between two cars. The team leader is said to be Kichan Buhari, also an accused in Coimbatore case. The bomb used in this case was a crude one like the one on Church Street.

As can be seen from the above cases, each blast is linked to a different agency. Two have connections in North India and Pakistan whereas the remaining two are connected to South India. Compared to other cities, the number of casualties in proportion to the blasts is quite less in Bengaluru.

“Twitter” Mehdi

Speculation is going on whether terror group Islamic State (IS) is responsible for the Church Street blast as a revenge for arresting “Twitter” Mehdi. Considering the gruesomeness with which IS commits its terror acts, the Church Street blast does not appear to be its handiwork. Also IS is not linked to any crime in India as of now.

So far, the needle of suspicion points towards IM or SIMI (some speculating at five SIMI terrorists who escaped from Khandwa jail) or any other terrorist outfits operating in South India. A sleeper cell of Bengaluru or persons from neighbouring states might be involved. However, it is for the NIA, which will take over the investigation of this case, to unravel the mystery.

Intelligence plays a major part in prevention of such attacks. It is to the credit of the Bengaluru police that they have not only detected earlier terror cases but also unearthed a plot to kill prominent BJP leaders in 2012 by arresting two dozen people, mostly from Hubli and Hyderabad. Gathering such intelligence is the need of the hour apart from taking many other preventive measures.

Bengaluru is already on the radar of terrorists. In order to prevent such attacks in future, the public, apart from the police, has to be vigilant. It is always necessary for the occupants of various premises to keep a keen eye on what is happening around them. If the housekeeping staff of the restaurant was careful enough, they could have noticed a strange packet lying behind the bushes.

Since explosive devices are always placed where large gatherings converge, constant vigil on the part of police and the public is the only key to prevent future attacks. Combined preventive action by police and public will go a long way in minimising such attacks.
(The author is retired Director General of Police in Karnataka)

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