Local Iranian's role in attack being probed

Delhi officials say sophisticated "sticky bomb" never used in India before.

By KANCHAN GUPTA, SPECIAL TO THE JERUSALEM POST
February 15, 2012 03:30
4 minute read.
Exploded car at Israeli New Delhi embassy

Exploded car at Israeli New Delhi embassy in India 390R. (photo credit: REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma)

 
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NEW DELHI – Security agencies are scouring records of arrivals at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport and other international airports across the country, a day after the targeted attack on the car in which Israeli Embassy staffer Tal Yehoshua-Koren, wife of the defense attaché at the mission, was riding.

Also under intense scrutiny are airport records of departures to Middle-East destinations on Monday night and Tuesday morning.

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Although there is no official confirmation, investigators are believed to be looking into the possibility that either Lebanese or Palestinian nationals carried out Monday’s attack, with logistical support from local operatives affiliated with an extremist Islamic group or individuals who subscribe to anti-Israel violence.

A senior official said on condition of anonymity that the involvement of Iranians was not being ruled out. Investigators are looking into the possibility that Iranian students at Indian colleges provided logistical support for the attack, and Iranians who have entered India as tourists are under the scanner as well.

Records at Foreigners’ Registration Offices are also being studied for potential clues. But the entire effort could prove to be a Herculean task, and swift results are unlikely.

Delhi Police Commissioner B. K. Gupta, in an extended media briefing on Tuesday evening, confirmed that the attackers had used a so-called “sticky bomb,” one that is stuck to the target. The bomb “was not bigger than a palmtop or a brick,” he said, adding that it “would have exploded in three to five seconds after it was stuck on the vehicle.” Investigators have recovered “magnetic pieces” that formed part of the bomb.

According to eyewitness accounts, a motorcyclist stuck “an object” to the car when it slowed down at the traffic light a short distance from the prime minister’s residence. An explosion followed almost immediately, engulfing the car in flames and hurling Yehoshua- Koren out. She has since undergone emergency surgery, and doctors at Primus Hospital said Tuesday that she needed to be under constant observation for next 24 hours. However, they said, she is “conscious and talking to her family.”

Gupta said that “the motorcyclist hit a bollard after attaching the bomb, moved to the other lane, apparently took a left turn and fled.”

Investigators are poring over the footage of security cameras outside the Israeli Embassy for clues to identify the person on the motorcycle, who would have tailed the car from the embassy gates. The recordings from the security camera installed at the nearby bungalow of a business tycoon are also believed to be under scrutiny, although no official was willing to confirm this.

According to the Delhi Police chief, the bomb could have been detonated “using a mechanical trigger, a remote or a timer.”

Sources in security agencies said the bomb was “very sophisticated” and that this was the first time such a bomb had been used in India.


Although a formal report by forensic experts has not yet come out, experts who examined the car and the site of the explosion are believed to be of the view that the bomb involved neither a battery nor a circuit.

The sources said on condition of anonymity that the bomb was likely detonated using a remote device. Since there are jammers along the stretch of Aurangzeb Road where the embassy and other high-profile establishments are located and around the prime minister’s residence at 7 Race Course Road, a remote device cannot be used there. The only spot where the remote device would work is the immediate vicinity of the traffic light at the intersection of Aurangzeb and Safdarjung Road. That is precisely where the explosion occurred.

The sources pointed out that if a remote device had been used to trigger the explosion, it meant a second person was involved in the bombing. That person may have been standing on the pavement or traveling in another vehicle, they said, noting that there would have had to be clockwork coordination between the second perpetrator and the motorcyclist – something that would indicate a well-planned and rehearsed plot.

While there have been several bombings by terrorists affiliated with Islamic groups based in both Pakistan and India, most recently by the Indian Mujahedeen, this is the first time a sticky bomb has been used in so daring a manner and with such practiced ease.

“It is quite clear that a very well-trained person has committed this attack,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram said after reviewing investigations into the incident.

The police chief echoed this view, virtually ruling out the involvement of the Indian Mujahedeen: “It could not be a normal terror module which one has witnessed here. The attacker was very well trained. He managed to escape from the spot within a few seconds and without sustaining injuries.”

A senior police official said investigators were looking into whether the bomber had been trailing the car for the past four days to acquaint himself with the usual route and to get the lay of the land. According to this official, police are investigating whether the perpetrators used any Iranian residents in India.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chidambaram told journalists that he was “not pointing a finger at any particular group or any particular organization, but whoever did it, we condemn it in the strongest terms.”

Home Secretary R. K. Singh, asked whether there was an Iranian hand in the attack, said, “We have no evidence to name any country. It’s premature to take any country’s name.”

Gupta added, “We are looking at every possibility.”

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