Mumbai: It has been learnt that 40-50 kgs of ammonium nitrate, detonators and gelatin sticks went missing from police custody at Silvassa, barely 150 kms from here, just days before the terror attack. This may provide a crucial lead in the July 13 Mumbai blasts probe.
Reports suggest that huge amounts of explosive material such as detonators, gelatin sticks and ammonium nitrate were seized by Silvassa police on May 20 from a famous resort.
There is a strong possibility that the explosives may have been used in the triple blasts that killed 19 people and left over 130 injured.
Mumbai ATS, on Monday, had questioned officials posted at Silvassa police station in connection with the development.
Rakesh Maria, the chief of Maharashtra`s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), has said that ammonium nitrate was used in the explosions.
Notably, in the recent past such explosive materials have been used in 7/11, Malegaon and Mulund train blasts.
The matter is being investigated by the local police. At least 20 people have come under the scanner and are being questioned, sources said. The suspects are being grilled according to the data received from the CCTV footage and call details, sources informed.
Sources close to the investigation also revealed that forensic sleuths are trying to decipher the exact make of the detonators used to trigger the bombs made of ammonium nitrate, fuel oil (ANFO) and ball bearings.
Meanwhile, investigators have extended their probe to various parts of the country as they intensified the hunt for clues leading to those behind the terror attack.
What is known is that the blasts were triggered by using timers and not remote controlled devices.
"But what timer device it was is still not known. It could be clock timers, it could be mobile phones alarms, it could be any other timer device, mechanical, chemical or digital," said a home ministry source in New Delhi.
Sources familiar with the probe process said the identification of the timer device was crucial because it would help investigators establish a pattern and trace similarities, if any, to previous attacks.
This would give the investigation a definite angle and maybe point to the outfit behind the blasts.
The home-grown Islamist militant outfit, the Indian Mujahideen, has used timer devices of various kinds to trigger blasts in many Indian cities, an expert said.
Though authorities have refrained from naming any terror outfit, sources informed that the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had raided various places for suspected Indian Mujahideen operatives.
They have also questioned some activists of the outfit who are in various jails in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
NIA team questioned Jalees Ansari, convicted for his alleged role in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, in an Ajmer jail.
Ansari, an expert in handling explosives, is serving a life term. Sources said he could have possibly helped the perpetrators to make the bombs.
NIA team is also likely to visit Bihar where police have taken into custody two suspected operatives of the Harkat ul Jehad-e-Islami (HuJI), Riyaz ul Sarkar and Aftab Alam.
The sources said the investigators with the help of Gujarat police have accessed a yahoo mail account of Indian Mujahideen operative Danish Riyaz, a key accused in the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts, arrested on June 21 from Vadodara.
Riyaz, originally from Ranchi in Jharkhand, is being interrogated afresh for a possible link to the Mumbai blasts, sources in the Gujarat police said.
They alleged that email exchanges of Riyaz with his accomplices, including Haroon, who was picked up from Kolkata on Sunday, have revealed that the Indian Mujahideen was recruiting youth for training.
Both are being questioned again for any possible lead into the blasts by the investigators amid a possibility that the triple blasts could have roots outside Maharashtra.
With IANS inputs