Mumbai: Were the triple bombings in Mumbai a "trial" or a "dry run" for something bigger? A leading security expert suggests so, basing his theory on a few facts emerging from the probe, including on the amount of explosive used.
The blasts which were triggered in quick succession, with specific and vulnerable targets being Mumbai's Rs.10 billion ($225 million) per day turnover diamond and jewellery markets, and a crowded area near Dadar with many jewellery shops around, were designed to create more panic than damage, according to anti-terrorism expert and war veteran, retired Col. M.P. Choudhary.
"I presume it could be a 'dry run' for something bigger that we may not yet have anticipated, coming nearly three years after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks," Choudhary said in an interview here.
"I think this is one of the most important aspects that the investigating agencies must now focus to prevent a recurrence," he said gravely.
Last Wednesday's triple explosions in Mumbai left 19 dead and 129 injured.
Choudhary contended that with the investigators so far encountering a complete blank on leads, it is quite possible that the blasts were carried out by a smaller, relatively unknown, or even a breakaway faction of some known groups.
Justifying his analysis, Choudhary said that judging from the estimated quantities - around one kg of ammonium nitrate used at each site, as per police theories - the blasts were not intended to inflict "maximum casualties" but create "maximum panic" in the targeted areas.
Choudhary, the brain behind India's first Anti-Hijack Force and Special Operations Group - the forerunner to the National Security Guard, popularly known as Black Cat commandos - said that even the possible involvement of the local underworld and international mafia angles "need to be thoroughly probed".
"Considering they are a soft, sitting target, the investigators must find out whether the diamond and jewellery markets have received any extortion threats in the recent past," Choudhary, who is an expert on terror bombs and devices (IED), suggested.
While the impact of the Dadar blast was not much, those in Zaveri Bazar and Opera House were much bigger, with several (19 so far) fatal casualties and many more injured.
Choudhary feels that all the three sites are hugely congested places with a large number of floating population, and a medium to high intensity explosive could have been easily planted after a systematic recce of the localities.
"It is quite possible that a new, smaller group, trained across-the-border or someone from across-the-border may have infiltrated and trained them in making bombs, or a breakaway faction of an existing bigger group, wanted to carry out a dry run.. I think it is definitely a possibility," Choudhary said.
He finds that the easily available chemical like ammonium nitrate, suspected to be used in the triple blasts, though the final forensic reports are awaited, as a matter of concern.
Choudhary pointed out that ammonium nitrate - a chemical, which appears like ordinary crystal sugar and commonly available with plant nurseries and fertilizer outlets - may have been bought in small quantities, even from the Dava Bazar (the wholesale pharmaceutical market), located next door to Zaveri Bazar and around two km from Opera House.
He feels that nobody would suspect a stranger buying smaller quantities from different shops over a period of few days, which could be later stored and used in assembling the explosive device.
Referring to the body of a person being found with circuits stuck to it, he said that if the person was too close to the explosive device as the police surmise, the circuit would have been destroyed with no remnants left behind.
Accordingly, Choudhary said the possibility of a suicide bomber should not be entirely ruled out.
Choudhary said the investigating agencies should apply their minds to these issues to get at the root of the conspiracy and prevent Mumbai from earning a 'terror-prone' tag.
First Published: Saturday, July 16, 2011, 22:17