Outlawed outfit SIMI’s possible role has come under the scanner of investigators probing the terror attack outside a restaurant here that killed a woman and injured three others, as government announced a raft of measures to ramp up security, particularly in crowded areas.
“There is a possibility,” said Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, on whether men – said to be members of the Students Islamic Movement of India -could have been involved in the blast that is being probed by National Investigation Agency (NIA) and city police from “all angles.”
Police announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for providing information about the person who planted the bomb outside the restaurant in central business district, that sees New Year revelry at its peak in the city, bringing back terror to the country’s IT hub for the fifth time in nearly a decade.
As investigators sewed up clues on the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) triggered explosion, the NIA began assisting the city police which sent out teams to Chennai and Pune where the bomb blasts had occurred in the past.
After taking stock of the security situation at a high-level meeting, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said, “all angles” were being looked into the blast, which the Centre viewed as a “terror attack”.
“As you are aware, recently a few people belonging to SIMI had escaped from a jail in Madhya Pradesh and we have information that they had visited Karnataka, so police is looking at that angle also,” Siddaramaiah told reporters.
Siddaramaiah said NIA and other central agencies were here and “we will keep constant contact with them and will seek all those assistance required, but investigation will be done by our police in coordination with them.”
In Delhi, Rijiju told reporters, “It was a terror attack.”
The blast turned holiday into tragedy for the 38-year-old visitor from Chennai, Bhavani as she was struck by shrapnels from the IED placed in a potted plant along the compound wall of the restaurant on Church Street last night and succumbed to injuries shortly thereafter at a hospital.
All the three others injured, including a relative of Bhavani, were out of danger “totally”, Siddaramaiah said.
“We are looking into it as well,” Police Commissioner M N Reddi said on the possible involvement of five SIMI members who escaped from Khandwa jail in Madhya Pradesh recently.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who held a high-level meeting in New Delhi, said the idea about the nature of the blast and who could be behind it could be ascertained only after a proper probe while assuring that Centre would provide all possible help to Karnataka.
“If necessary, we will hand over the investigation to the NIA,” he said.
Reddi said, “CCTV footage that we have got is very limited…our teams are looking into it, I don’t have information on leads available from it.It may take some time.”
A special team headed by Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) had been formed, Siddaramaiah said.
In a series of security boosting steps, Siddaramaiah announced that Public Safety Enforcement Act as in Andhra Pradesh would be in place and police had prepared a draft.
It would entail installation of CCTVs by the owners of places which see movement of hundreds people like cinema halls, hotels, malls and other places.
A separate cadre for Intelligence and ramping up cyber security by recruiting 40 engineers to provide technical support were also announced.
Siddaramaiah, who rejected suggestions of Intelligence failure, said, “We are in constant touch with them (Centre). IB team has come, they are also collecting the information.”
Security had been stepped up, particularly after the arrest of alleged pro-IS Twitter account handler Mehdi Masroor Biswas here recently, he said.
Asked about the possible link between the blast and arrest of Biswas, Reddi said, “Mehdi is an ISIS propagandist. ISIS is in foreign land and there is no information of its roots in our country or state, but having said that there is no rule that they have to commit such acts with allegiance to one group, they might have acted individually, we are looking at all angles.”
Bomb blasts had occurred in Bengaluru at nine places in 2008, outside the cricket stadium in 2010 and near BJP office in 2013, leaving two persons dead and 51 injured in all the cases. In 2005, an Indian Institute of Technology professor from Delhi was killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire at Indian Institute of Science campus.