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Ludhiana Blast
Police clueless; 25 questioned
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 15
Twenty hours after the Shingar blast, the police remains clueless about the accused, the kind of explosives and the mode of triggering the blast even as the top brass of the Punjab Police and intelligence agencies are camping here, trying to gather leads from the site or their sources.

The police is learnt to have questioned nearly 25 persons but most of them were those who were watching the movie on that fateful night. They were quizzed about the description of the person who sat on the seat where the bomb was planted. None had been detained.

The police is awaiting the relatives of the one still unidentified. No one has come to claim his body. Officials said it was purely speculative that this man could have planted the bomb but failed to escape in time. The police said the manner in which the bomb was planted in the seat suggested that it had been put there long before the blast took place. The police also questioned the cinema staff in this regard.

Various police teams fanned out in the city late in the evening, making a list of people who had recently started living in the city after information regarding the presence of certain illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The police had made lists of some migrants from West Bengal and Kashmir, former terrorists and anti-social elements.

The police also held a couple of brain-storming sessions but nothing special was revealed to the media. R. K. Jaiswal, SSP, said no suspect had been rounded up.

Movements regarding visits of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and political leaders of different parties, apart from senior officials, did hinder the investigation work as most of the force was busy doing VIP duty at the hospital.

Meanwhile, police sources rued that vital leads at the blast site could have been lost in the melee following the blast.

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Babbar Khalsa, HuJI main suspects
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 15
The bomb that killed six and injured 36 in Shingar Cinema last night was attached with a spring of a seat in the third row of the hall. The latest police investigation has narrowed down on the involvement of the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HuJI) and the Babbar Khalsa as the prime suspects behind the blast.

Sources revealed that the low-intensity improvised bomb was packed with sharp metal pieces, nails and glass pieces. Small parts of these were found in the wounds of the injured and deceased, doctors revealed, and added that small metal pieces could be of the seats that were blown to pieces.

No terrorist organization has so far claimed responsibility for the blast.

Chander Shekhar, ADGP, Law and Order, revealed that the terrorist outfit had chosen the hall as it was a soft target and not because migrants would be hit the most.

There were intelligence reports that illegal Bangladeshi immigrants may disrupt law and order. The Babbar Khalsa was also on the top of the suspects’ list as the recent RDX recoveries in the state were made from alleged terrorists of this organisation. On the involvement of the Babbar Khalsa, he said this outfit was trying to regroup and most of the RDX seized recently was traced to this organisation.

Forensic experts from the National Security Guards, Delhi, along with experts from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Chandigarh, collected samples from the site this morning. These could not be taken last night due to lack of proper lighting inside the hall.

The police suspects it is either a time bomb or a remote controlled blast.

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Calls to Pak being checked
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 15
Investigators looking into the blast at Ludhiana last night face a mountain of “electronic data” as they have begun screening hundreds of telephone calls made to Pakistan from Ludhiana and other cities of Punjab in the past few days.

Screening of calls will be important as this could lead to some clue. There may be huge number of calls and technical inputs are being sought from other central agencies to find out suspected numbers. Many cases in the past have been traced through telephone calls, said officials.

Though the talk, if any, may have been carried out in a code language, a senior official associated with the investigation said there was a strong possibility that the explosive could have been smuggled in by those running the narcotics smuggling racket. In the past few months there have been huge recoveries of drugs along the border. The police is still not ready to commit itself to follow investigation on any particular line till it has evidence in hand to be convinced. “Let us wait for the outcome of forensic report and also a sketch that could be drawn on the basis of eyewitnesses,” said ADGP, law and order, Chander Sekhar. In case RDX is used then there is known line to follow, he added.

The Punjab Police is still to find out a clue on the identity of the suspects or their number, the organisation which could have triggered the blast or even what kind of explosive could have been used. Police officers in Chandigarh said former militants who had been lying low in the past were being “checked out” for any suspicious movements while a tab is also being kept through sources on the movements of 132 “Punjab militants” who are now based in Europe, the USA or Pakistan.

Crucially for Punjab this blast comes close on the heels of the opening of the Attari-Wagah border for movement of trucks and also within a week of the six month old SAD—BJP government having launched the ambitious metro-rail project for Ludhiana. Meanwhile, in Chandigarh working president of the SAD Sukhbir Badal said it was not an intelligence failure and added “let the investigations be complete, we will not spare the accused”.

Today the Punjab Police was joined in by a forensic team, a team of the intelligence bureau and the national security guards but the explosive that was used to trigger the blast could not be established till late in the evening. Now senior functionaries of the police have asked doctors treating the injured to look for residues of explosives like RDX on the bodies of the injured. The dust at the site is being collected to sift it through and find what was the cause.

An internal report of the Punjab Police circulated some five months ago said major blasts on trains in Punjab had not been traced. This includes three major blasts - occurring: July, 1997 - at Lehra Khanna neat Bathinda where 36 persons died. March, 2002 - near Doraha on board the Dhanbad express when three persons died and also when two persons died in a blast on board a train near Bangi Nihalsinghwala in October, 2000.

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Do ‘red’ or ‘high’ alerts mean anything?
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 15
Do you know what is “red alert” or what does the government mean when it says “police is on high alert” in the state.

Interestingly, neither “red alert” nor “high alert” has any mention either in police rules or the law books. “It is just a cliché which in reality means nothing,” admits a senior police officer while reacting to screaming headlines in various newspapers and TV channels that Punjab and Chandigarh are on “high alert” after a bomb blast in a cinema hall at Ludhiana last night.

In police lingo, he says, “red alert” or “high alert” is a cliché for a “crash” circular or oral message from the police chief to range inspectors-general (IGs), deputy inspectors-general (DIGs) and senior superintendents (SSPs) to be extra cautious and vigilant before or after a major terrorist strike or a serious law and order problem.

At best, it is just to divert the attention of the shocked or agitated section of crowd affected by a particular or series of incidents in its territory. The idea is that the top brass should be seen moving and taking action after a serious incident has taken place, he adds.

The term “red” has probably come from the Interpol, which uses “red corner” notices for the most wanted people. “In reality, right hand upper corner of such notices are painted red to give them a distinct identity. Issuance of such a notice does not mean that the police in the entire world is on its toes looking for the wanted man,” he adds. “So you can understand what is the significance of the red alert.”

Invariably it does not reach the policemen in the field who are there to handle the situation arising out of such crises.

It is more of a ritual than anything else; admit many of senior police officers, revealing that “some time we have a hearty laugh when newspapers come out with screaming headlines on red alert.”

No record is ever maintained of “red alerts” or high alerts issued from time to time. Mostly they are verbal and policeman at the spot of the crime or violence may not be aware that “alert has been sounded”.

The only situation where policemen, including a beat constable, get powers to search anyone on mere suspicion is after the state declares any area or territory to be “disturbed”. In that case the security forces, including the police, get special powers.

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