(AFP) – Sep 21, 2008
NEW DELHI (AFP) — Indian police on Sunday said they had arrested three more suspected militants over a series of bombings across the country that have left more than 140 people dead.
The police said the three men belonged to the Indian Mujahideen, which has claimed responsibility for the blasts in several cities including attacks in New Delhi on September 13.
Two of the three men were among those who had planted bombs in the Indian capital, killing 22 people and injuring about 100, police said. Five bombs exploded while three were defused.
The latest arrests take to five the number of suspects held since Friday's gun battle with police in a Muslim-dominated district of New Delhi, in which two suspects were shot dead.
Two alleged guerrillas escaped and one police officer was killed during the raid.
One of the slain militants -- an Indian Mujahideen leader named only as Atif -- was plotting to stage 20 blasts in New Delhi's busy Nehru Place business district, Deputy Police Commissioner H.G. Dhaliwal told reporters.
"Atif was diabolical as he would celebrate after every serial blast that his boys staged in India and on the days where there were no attacks he would scan newspapers and say 'there's no good news happening'," Dhaliwal said.
"Atif even cross-questioned the bombers who caused minimum casualties," Dhaliwal said, citing confessions of the three men arrested earlier Sunday.
He said one of the arrested men, Mohammad Shakeel, a 24-year-old university economics student, had casually eaten an ice cream before planting his deadly bomb in a packed Delhi electronics market.
Another of the men was a business school student who planted a bomb near the India Gate war memorial in the heart of the capital. It did not go off.
"The third suspect is the caretaker of the building where the gun battle took place and he is the father of a terrorist who planted another of the Delhi bombs," police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.
The Indian Mujahideen first came to public attention last November following serial blasts in Uttar Pradesh in which at least 13 people died.
The shadowy outfit said it was also responsible for a string of five bomb blasts in July in the western city of Ahmedabad that killed 45 people.
The group sent an email to media outlets after blasts in May in the tourist city of Jaipur that left 63 dead. In the email it announced it had launched an "open war" against India for supporting the United States.
Delhi anti-terrorism chief Karnal Singh meanwhile accused Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), of using Indian nationals to disguise its part in serial bombings in India.
If a Pakistani national is caught "then internationally the ISI faces problems and so they changed their strategy and the agency now has begun involving more Indian nationals in such attacks," Singh told reporters.
Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba angrily denied involvement in the bombings, saying it only targeted Indian troops in Kashmir.
"It is a propaganda to discredit us," spokesman Abdullah Ghaznavi told AFP.
The Delhi shootout came a day after the government unveiled security measures to tackle what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said were "vast gaps" in intelligence gathering.
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