Ahmedabad serial blasts 2008: A look back at one of the most challenging investigations
New Delhi, Feb 08: There were a series of bomb explosions in Ahmedabad on July 26, 2008, which resulted in death of 56 persons and injuries of various types to 240 persons. The explosions were caused at public premises and crowded places with intention to cause terror among public at large.
Total Twenty Three blasts took place in the city between 1830hrs to 1945hrs. A few minutes prior to the blast, the television channels and media had received an e-mail, purportedly from an organisation called as 'Indian Mujahideen' warning that such a series of blasts would occur.
Thereafter, Surat police recovered 29 bombs from various parts of the city between 28 July and 31 July 2008. The materials used in the blasts were similar to those used in Ahmedabad, except that the integrated circuits were used in the preparation of the Surat bombs. Investigations revealed that faulty circuits and detonators had rendered the bombs ineffective and hence had not exploded.
The challenge before Gujarat Police to detect the case was enormous as numerous incidents in recent past of serial blasts bearing signature of terrorist group 'Indian Mujahideen' were undetected in the country, including blasts in Bengaluru, Jaipur, Mumbai, Varanasi, etc. The investigation of these blast cases in Gujarat were handed over to the special teams of Detection of Crime Branch, Ahmedabad City headed by Ashish Bhatia, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch). On the basis of technical and human intelligence eleven persons were arrested on 15th August 2008 by Gujarat Police, which revealed the conspiracy and extent of the terrorist organisation Indian Mujahideen, responsible for these incidents. The investigation revealed that a banned organisation, namely Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), had metamorphosed as Indian Mujahideen after the ban by central government. Erstwhile members of SIMI, with the active help from Pakistan based agencies and underworld elements, had caused various incidents of serial blasts in India. Investigation further revealed that the Indian Mujahideen activists who planned the Ahmedabad blasts rented a nondescript house in Vatva area of Ahmedabad in the second week of May 2008.
It was rented by Zahid Shaikh, a native of Ahmedabad, who was given the responsibility to set up base.
The house was used as the headquarters, where Mufti Abu Bashir and Mohammad Qayamuddin, the executors of the blasts, Abdul Subhan alias Tauqueer, the group leader, and others stayed in order to plan and execute the explosions. The house was also used to conduct the necessary reconnaissance to identify potential blast sites and recruit local youth.
The operatives vacated the house on 25 July 2008, one day before the blasts were executed.
Investigations revealed that about 40 Muslim boys, of whom 23 were from Gujarat, underwent training in May 2008 in Central Gujarat. This training camp is believed to be the precursor to the Ahmedabad blasts. The clockwork precision in the execution of the serial blasts and the statements rendered by the arrested persons also highlight the involvement of the ISI. Most of the bombs were planted on bicycles in tiffin boxes containing low grade explosives and kept in blue polythene bags similar to the ones used in the Jaipur blasts. The bombs in LG and Civil Hospitals were placed in automobiles packed with gas cylinders to cause maximum casualties. All the bombs were placed with timer devices and ammonium nitrate as the explosive device.
The trial of the serial blast cases of Ahmedabad and the recovery of the unexploded bombs from Surat were clubbed together and conducted by the Special Court of the Additional District Sessions Court of Ahmedabad City.
Of the total arrested persons in these cases, Naved Naimuddin Kadri has been released on bail on grounds of mental illness and Ayaz Razakmiya Saiyyed has turned approver in the case and had been granted bail by the Gujarat High Court.
Salient Features Associated with the Investigation and Trial of the Serial Blasts Cases
- The incident of serial blasts in Ahmedabad and the recovery of unexploded bombs from Surat which led to loss of innocent lives was taken very seriously by the then Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendrabhai Modi and MoS (Home), Amit Shah and they had taken a conscious decision that this type of terror activities should end not only in Gujarat but also across the country. The Gujarat Government headed by Shri. Narendrabhai Modi decided to form a special police team to detect the cases and also to arrest the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.
- A special team of Ahmedabad Crime Branch was formed under the leadership of the then JCP Crime, Ashish Bhatia and assisted by Abhay Chudasma (DCP Crime) and Himanshu Shukla (ASP Himmatnagar). The investigation of these cases was given to the then DySPs Rajendra Asari, Mayur Chavda, Usha Rada and V R Tolia. This special team of Ahmedabad Crime Branch had cracked the case in 19 days and made the first sets of arrests on 15th august 2008. Though several blasts had occurred in various parts of the country since February 2005, it was the first time that the conspiracy behind these cases could be cracked, and the cases detected by Gujarat Police. The efforts made by Gujarat Police ensured that the individuals associated with the terror organisation 'Indian Mujahideen' could be arrested and their reign of terror could be curtailed.
- The then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and MoS (Home), Amit Shah had constantly followed up the investigation and progress of this case and had instructed the Gujarat Police to form special team of officers who were tasked to follow up the trial in these cases before the special court in Ahmedabad City. It is the pain staking efforts of the prosecution that has led to delivery of justice in this case today.
- It was the determination of the then Gujarat Chief Minister Modi that he had decided that there should not be any such gruesome terror act in the state in future and he had diligently put all the resources of the state in bringing the terrorists to justice. It is a testament to this political will that since 2008 not a single terror incident had happened in the state of Gujarat.
- The SIMI module associated with the Safdar Nagori faction had advocated violent aggressive anti national activities in India. The investigation into the case had led to the arrest of the entire leadership and cadre of this SIMI faction in Gujarat and had thereby ensured that there would not be no such gruesome incident in the future in the state.
- The aggressive and cold calculation of the 'Indian Mujahideen' could be seen in their selection of the places to conduct the blasts in the state. The places for planting bombs in Ahmedabad City were selected by terrorists with intention to incite communal tension. The places of planting and timings set for bombs in Surat were selected to cause maximum casualties and breakdown of the economy, as diamond workers and elevated highway was targeted. Significantly, two blasts had occurred in the premises of Civil and L.G. hospitals where several victims of the explosions in other areas were being rushed exacerbating the already tense situation. Timing of blast at these hospitals were planned to cause maximum casualty as these bombs were set to explode after the other blasts with the motive to target the wounded who would be brought to these hospitals and also the VIPs/doctors and other government officials who would be associated with relief and rescue efforts.
- Gujarat Police teams were successful in making arrests of various accused from difficult and challenging places including Sarai Mir, Azamgarh, Hyderabad, etc. with help of other state police units and timely assistance provided by central intelligence organisations. These continuous successes of Gujarat Police made it difficult for the Indian Mujahideen to establish foothold and also broke their confidence and motivation to try any further activities in Gujarat.
- It is the success of the prosecution that none of the accused persons arrested in these cases have been able to obtain bail from the various courts in the past 14 years. The only cases where the bail has been obtained are in case of a person who had been granted bail on the ground of acute mental illness and in another case where the accused had turned approver and had given deposition in the trial court implicating the role of the various accused persons and the details of the criminal conspiracy involved in the commissioning of the offence.
- The investigation team headed by Ashish Bhatia, the then Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, Ahmedabad City had been successful in breaking the back of the Indian Mujahideen and of the SIMI leadership in Gujarat. The investigation team had painstakingly collected evidence including the statements of several secret witnesses or star witnesses and made a watertight case. The prosecution team had three special public prosecutors, H M Dhruva, Amit Patel and Sudhir Brahmbhatt who had represented the state. The coordinated efforts of the investigation agency and the prosecution team has been instrumental in ensuring smooth and successful completion of the trial in these cases.