Delhi police say suspect was attack mastermind

Posted in India | 14-Nov-05 | Author: Amelia Gentleman| Source: International Herald Tribune

Rukaya, second left, holds her daughter, as she along with her other relatives display the certificates and medals of her husband Tariq, in Srinagar, India, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2005.
NEW DELHI The police said Sunday that the Kashmiri militant they arrested last week in connection with the Oct. 29 bombings in New Delhi was the mastermind of the attacks.

Tariq Ahmad Dar, who was arrested Thursday in the Kashmiri city of Srinagar, is alleged to be a member of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. Officials said Sunday that they suspected him of financing and organizing the near-simultaneous triple bombings on Oct. 29 in which 63 people were killed and more than 200 were injured.

Delhi police commissioner K.K. Paul claimed at a news conference that it was "quite clear" from the interrogations that Lashkar was responsible for the blasts which tore through two busy markets and one bus.

The attackers had chosen to time the bombings on the eve of the major Hindu festival of Diwali, when Delhi's markets were crowded with shoppers, "to create maximum impact," Paul said.

Dar is not believed to have been in Delhi at the time of the bombings, although he is thought to have traveled to the capital at the start of the month to set up the attacks, police said. Detectives are looking for four co-conspirators who are thought to have helped carry out the attacks, at least two of whom are known Lashkar militants.

"The three blasts were carried out by at least four people. The identity of the people has more or less been confirmed and we are trying to track them down," Paul added.

The Delhi police are under considerable pressure to be seen to be making progress in their investigations into the bombings, and this is the second major development they have trumpeted to the media; the first breakthrough turned out to be a false lead. Last week the police arrested Ghulam Mohammad Mohiudin Lone, 21, who said he had planted the bomb that exploded in the crowded Paharganj market. Detectives later admitted that his claims were untrue, and ruled him out of the inquiry.

Another Islamic militant group, Inquilabi Mahaz, or Islamic Revolutionary Group, initially claimed to have orchestrated the attacks but officials were skeptical about their involvement and said from the start that they suspected that Lashkar was responsible, despite a denial from Lashkar militants.

The Indian media said Dar was a chemistry expert who was working as a sales representative for the international pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. He has not been formally charged, but police have obtained permission to detain him for two more weeks to question him further. Paul alleged he was "an important financier, conspirator and coordinator of Lashkar."

"He has intimate contacts with Lashkar, and he works as their facilitator," Paul said, adding that Dar's bank account had been credited with 500,000 rupees, or $11,000, a few days after the bombings.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, or Soldiers of the Pure, is one of the most well-known Muslim militant groups active in Kashmir, fighting the Indian Army in the region and demanding the separation of the Muslim-majority state from predominantly Hindu India. Militants in the Indian-controlled section of Kashmir have been battling since 1989 for independence or for union with Muslim Pakistan; about 66,000 people are thought to have died in the violence.

Lashkar militants have been implicated in two other terrorist attacks on the capital in recent years. India claimed that Lashkar was involved in the 2001 armed raid on the Parliament building in Delhi, a claim that Lashkar denied. A Pakistani member of Lashkar was sentenced to death two weeks ago for his role in the December 2000 Red Fort bombing that killed three people.