Indian Decade

Bullet 313 Eyed Over Mumbai

Investigators looking into the Mumbai terrorist attacks believe a group tied to the Indian Mujahideen may be to blame.

The investigation into the July 13 Mumbai terrorist attacks has blown the lid off India’s newest terror threat – Bullet 313, an offshoot of the Indian Mujahideen named after al-Qaeda operative Ilyas Kashmiri’s Brigade 313.

Sources in India’s security establishment said Saturday that they suspected Bullet 313 has an expansive network in India after being formed a few years ago, when key operatives of IM had been neutralized. In view of Bullet 313’s suspected presence in a number of Indian cities, the July 13 investigations have already reached far beyond Mumbai, and detectives are apparently conducting covert operations in at least six Indian cities – Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Surat, Ranchi, Bhopal and Lucknow.

Indications of the possible use of lethal explosive TNT, and perhaps even RDX, in this week’s blasts raised the stakes in the investigations. The development has also triggered fears that July 13 might merely have been a dry run for a much deadlier spectacular, possibly in Gujarat, which has been a favourite of IM.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) is in touch with the Kolkata Special Task Force in probing the Kolkata link to the blasts after a suspected IM terrorist went missing in the last few days. The ATS is also said to be scouring the passenger lists from Kolkata to Mumbai for the eight days prior to the blasts. Passenger lists of Kolkata-Kanpur trains are also being looked into.

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Little is known about Bullet 313, but sources said three key men are Sameer, Shakeel and Hakim Nizamuddin, whose whereabouts aren’t known. Despite the believed IM-Bullet 313 links, there’s one important area of difference in the modus operandi of the two: while the former has tended to announce attacks in advance by email, the latter did no such thing before the July 13 blasts.

Investigations so far have also thrown up two interesting points: (i) there was no suicide bomber in the latest Mumbai carnage, and (ii) the bomb makers were experts, not novices. The investigators have ruled out the possibility of a suicide bomber – floated after discovery of a wired dead body – as the body was intact. While suicide bombings are quite frequent in neighbouring Pakistan, India has mercifully been virtually free of this menace, with the exception of the killing of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a LTTE suicide bomber in Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991.

As for the second point, it is indeed remarkable that while the rain played havoc with the forensic evidence and disturbed the investigators, it had no impact on the perpetrators as the bombs went off as per the time set on their digital timer devices. This indicates that the bomb makers were no green horns.