MUMBAI: Indian detectives scrambled for a breakthrough Friday into the Mumbai bombings that killed 17 people and left baffled police hunting for clues and suspects in the monsoon rains.
There were fears that the torrential downpours that have hit the countries financial and entertainment capital since the rush-hour blasts on Wednesday evening may hamper the probe, washing away vital forensic clues.
Teams of detectives have begun the painstaking process of scouring security camera footage taken from the three bomb sites in south and south central Mumbai to try to put together a complete picture of what happened.
Forensic examination of debris has already indicated that the bombs, hidden in the crowded streets, used ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser ingredient commonly used in improvised explosive devices.
On Thursday evening, the head of the Maharashtra state Anti-Terrorism Squad, Rakesh Maria, admitted that the driving seasonal rain had hindered the scientists.
“Because of (the) rain, it will take a little longer for them to provide us details about the other aspects of the explosive device,” he told a news conference in the city.
Devices using ammonium nitrate have been used in the past by a home-grown militant outfit, the Indian Mujahideen, which has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks across India in recent years.
They include a series of deadly bombings in the capital, New Delhi, in September 2008, and in the western city of Ahmedabad earlier that year.
Two suspected members of the group were arrested in Mumbai last week in connection with the Ahmedabad attacks, and are now being questioned about the latest bombings, India's interior ministry said in a statement.
But Maria declined to speculate on who was responsible and struck a note of caution about reports that a severed head found at one of the scenes and a body embedded with wires suggested a suicide attack.
“We are not confining ourselves to any one group. At the moment all possibilities are being examined,” he told reporters.
“As the investigation progresses, the angles, the possibilities narrow down and we will be able to pinpoint the individuals responsible for this... All angles are being covered. It's too early to say human bomb.” Indian newspapers on Friday focused on the lack of an immediate breakthrough, amid widespread anger at the return of terror to the city after the 2008 attacks on Mumbai that left 166 people dead and more than 300 wounded.
“Intel: 0 Leads: 0” said a frontpage headline on the local Daily News and Analysis, questioning Interior Minister P. Chidambaram's assertion on Thursday that there had been no intelligence failure.
The daily said promises to improve intelligence sharing and set up fully functional rapid-reaction squads to deal with terror strikes had not been fulfilled.
India's police, security and intelligence agencies were heavily criticised for their response to the brazen Islamist militant strike in November 2008, which hit landmark targets in the city.
The Mumbai Mirror tabloid added that police were hunting an associate of the suspected Indian Mujahideen members, who allegedly slipped a police dragnet on Wednesday, just hours before the bombings.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday visited some of the more than 130 people injured in the blasts and vowed that those responsible would face swift justice.
“I assure the people that the government will do everything in its power to prevent such attacks in the future,” he said in a statement.
“In the final analysis, it is the unity and strength of the people that will defeat these efforts to divide our people and destroy our civilised way of life.
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