"The group Islami Inquilabi Mahaz that has claimed responsibility for Saturday's bomb blasts in Delhi is another name of Lashker-e-Toiba and is the best known as (a) successor terrorist outfit of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida," said Ajai Sahani, executive director of the Indian Institute of Conflict Management, a New Delhi based think tank.
He said the modus operandi clearly establishes that the operation was carried out with the active participation and logistic support provided by al-Qaida. Sahani said this is the first ever operation in India that was executed in al-Qaida's style.
"Inqilabi Mahaz owned up the responsibility to show aal-Qaida presence in India," said a senior Delhi police official. He said after hijacking of Indian Airlines plane IC-814, terrorists had demanded the release of one of the commander of Mahaz.
Three powerful bombs exploded at three crowded markets, Sarojini Nagar, Paharganj and Govindpuri in Delhi, killing 61 people and leaving 210 injured. A terror outfit Mahaz, which has links with LeT, claimed responsibility. The blasts in Sarojini Nagar and Paharganj were so powerful that a large number of shops were gutted in fire and whole areas were filled with dark smoke.
"A call was received by Srinagar office of the Kashmir News Service on Sunday. The caller claimed that the Islami Inquilabi Mahaz had triggered the blasts in Delhi," said Karnail Singh, Joint Commissioner of Delhi police, who is heading the probe in the blasts.
"The claim is being verified," Singh said. He said in one case in Govindpuri, where a bomb exploded in state run transport bus -- an electronic timer was used to detonate the device. Singh said this indicates a high-grade explosive was used in the blasts.
The federal government strongly condemned the incidents and expressed its deep shock over the blasts. All senior police and interior ministry officials including Home Minister Shivraj Patil rushed to the sites of the blasts. The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called an urgent meeting of the Cabinet, which reviewed the security situation in the country in view of the biggest Hindu festival Deepawali and Muslim community's Eid early this week.
"We have directed the security forces to step up the surveillance all over the country particularly in metro cities. The government would like to assure the public that it would take all precautionary measures to prevent reoccurrence of such bomb blasts," said Interior Minister Shivraj Patil.
The officials of the Indian Intelligence Bureau were immediately put on the job to gather clues. They have also not ruled out the hands of al-Qaida in the blasts. "It appeared that one group was involved in all three blasts as the construction of the device was same," said an IB official.
He said security agencies have questioned several persons and raids were also conducted at many places. "No arrest was made, however," he said.
The Delhi police official Karnail Singh said the police were working on all possible angles. "We have asked the federal government to provide us additional forces to keep vigil during the festival season," Singh said.
The Indian capital had witnessed several bomb blasts in the past. In the beginning they were carried out by Sikh separatist organizations, who demanded separate Sikh nation called Khalistan. After India's northern province Punjab got rid of militancy, Kashmiri terrorists started targeting the capital. The last bomb blasts in Delhi were in 1997 in which over 17 people died.
India has been accusing Pakistan' Inter-State Intelligence of masterminding the blasts on its territory. Islamabad has always rejected the charge. "Even in Saturday's bomb blasts, we have not ruled out the possibility of a Pakistani backed terrorist organization's hand," said Singh.
World leaders including President George W. Bush, Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair and others also condemned Delhi blasts.
"The incident was another reminder that respects no religion. Fighting terror is our common struggle, and we stand with the people of India as they bring to justice those responsible for these cowardly acts," said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Sahani the expert in terrorism and intelligence said LeT had made its presence felt in Jammu and Kashmir in 1993 under the guise of Islami Inquilabi Mahaz, which was then active in Poonch region of the State.
The Indian government had banned several militant groups mainly LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed, who are considered to be most dreaded and have a large network in almost all Indian states, which have substantial Muslim population.
"Lashkar-e-Toiba has been working closely with Al-Qaida since 1993 to set up pan-Islamic rule in the world," said a senior Indian intelligence officer. He said LeT recruits well educated and computer trained Sunni Muslim youth because the outfit propagates Sunni Wahabism, the pan-Islamic doctrine. No Indian Muslim was ever promoted as top commander of LeT. The Pakistani nationals always hold first and second rung leadership of the terror group.
Meanwhile, Delhi police have launched a massive hunt for Pakistani migrants who have been illegally residing in and around the capital. All borders of Delhi had been sealed.
"The vigil on illegal Pakistani nationals comes in the wake of the firming of evidence linking the blasts to Pakistan-based LeT following the responsibility claimed by one of its offshoots for the massacre," said a joint secretary level official in the Interior Ministry.
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