Delhi Bomb Manhunt Continues

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A nationwide manhunt for the perpetrators of Wednesday’s bomb attack outside the Delhi High Court, which claimed 13 lives and injured dozens more, has been making headway amid competing claims of responsibility.

Police have detained a number of suspects, including a man from Balrampur identified as Shahzad, as well as four people yesterday in Kishtwar, after an email purportedly sent by Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami (HuJI), a Bangladesh-based terror outfit affiliated with al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the blast. The owner and employees of a cyber café from where the email was allegedly sent have been held for questioning.

But the police investigation has been complicated by competing claims. A second terrorist organisation, the Indian Mujahideen (IM), claimed responsibility for the attack Thursday in an email supposedly sent by its members. Police are said to believe that the initial claim of responsibility by HuJI is bogus, both because the group hasn’t used emails to claim responsibility for any previous attack in India, and also because the capacity of HuJI operatives is believed to have been degraded thanks to the efforts of the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh. Almost 200 top HuJI cadres have been neutralized since Hasina took office 32 months ago, notes CNN-IBN, including HuJI kingpin Mohammad Yahia last month and Sheikh Farid, who formed HuJI after training with Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, in April.

Police are also sceptical as the HuJI e-mail claiming responsibility for Wednesday’s blast was sent from harkaruljihadi2011@gmail.com to two TV channels. However, HuJI isn’t known to use the abbreviated form of its name as appeared in the email. National Investigation Agency Chief S.C. Sinha has already gone on record as saying the authenticity of the email is being investigated.

U.K. Bansal, Secretary for Internal Security in the Ministry of Home Affairs, said Thursday that anti-terrorism squads in neighbouring states had been providing valuable input to the investigations, while forensic experts from other states had also come in to assist, IBN-CNN reported. Bansal said the IM email couldn’t be ignored, and that investigators would continue to look into it.

The IM e-mail, sent from chotoominani5@gmail.com by ‘Chotoo, member INDIAN MUZAHIDDIN’ bizarrely misspells the organisation’s name, and dismisses the HuJI claim before giving details of the supposed next attack, which it said will take place next Tuesday in a shopping complex. Police are also sceptical because the IM message is written in Hindi, but in Roman script, whereas all previous IM e-mails claiming responsibility for their acts of terror were in English.

The IM e-mail, translated into English, states: ‘HuJI hand cannot be behind the Delhi blast because we have done it. We had planned it earlier for Wednesday because the crowd is usually huge there on that day. We, the Indian Muzahiddin, have done it. HuJI is not even remotely connected to it. Our next target is coming soon, which will be outside a shopping complex. Nobody can stop that. And this will be done on next Tuesday. Stop us if you can.’ 

However, there was further confusion Friday as a third email claiming responsibility was received by investigators, this one also from the Indian Mujahideen, but including a code that appears to point to Ahmedabad as the next target.

Commenting on the email, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said that although the message was ‘amateurish’ it was still being taken seriously by officials.

‘The code reads as Ahmedabad. So the email sender is hinting that the (next) strike will be at Ahmedabad,’ Chidambaram was quoted by IANS as saying. ‘But since it’s such a simple code, very amateurish code, I am not sure whether it was sent by a serious person. Nevertheless, we are taking it seriously.’

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