Mumbai: When the twin blasts on August 25, 2003 rocked in Mumbai's famous landmark - the Gateway of India and the glittering gold market, Zaveri Bazaar, the cops had practically no clue. They were baffled as it was a blinder of a case. But, the Mumbai Police, often ranked next of Scotland Yard, went back to the basics to lay the trap and get hold of the accused.
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What happened for the next four days - comes out of a Bollywood blockbuster. Policemen took the disguise of rationing officers and also sold bananas, they survived on junk food like 'vada-pao' for days together. But they cracked the case.
On Monday, when the blasts took place - the cops had absolutely nothing.
The only information that they had is that two cars were used as bombs and RDX was used to trigger the blasts. The blasts had claimed 54 lives and injured 244 others. Both the locations were soft targets and the lunch hour crowd was targeted.
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An imprint of Lashkar-e-Toiba was clear.
The most important thing that happened on that day - is that one of the taxi drivers survived and he came to the police.
The investigations were handled by the elite Crime Branch-CID.
Pune Police chief Satyapal Singh was then the Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), supervised the investigations. The present Crime Branch-CID chief and the chief investigator of 26/11 attacks, Rakesh Maria was then Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime). The Deputy Commissioner of Police (Detection) was Pradip Sawant, currently with the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).
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The ground investigations were handled by Assistant Commissioner of Police Suresh Walishetty, who has now retired and Senior Inspector Vinayak Savde. The then police chief was Ranjit Sharma. Senior Inspector Vijay Salaskar, who died in last year`s Mumbai terror attacks, was also part of the investigating team.
The investigations is one of the best cases of detection - They did the job of sweepers, posed as banana-sellers and took the guise of rationing officers. The hawk-eyed detectives slept on benches and survived on junk food for days together. And they managed to lay hands of the terror couple - Mohammed Hanif Sayeed, Fahmeeda and their aide Arshad Ansari.
The driver told the court that his taxi was hired from Shopper's Stop area on Sunday, August 24, 2003. This was the day when they carried out a dry run cum recce. The next day also the driver was asked to be present near the same place. This came as a major clue for the cops. They spread out in plainclothes in the area, particularly near Azad Road at Andheri-West. Finally they managed to get hold of Arshad Ansari, who spilled the beans and revealed the names of the couple. Subsequently a trap was laid at Chimatpada at Marol Naka in Andheri-West from where the couple was picked.
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The arrests were made after the descriptions matched with those provided by the driver. The arrests were announced on September 1, 2003 in presence of a battery of newspersons.
The accused also alleged to have been involved in placing an unexploded bomb in a bus at SEEPZ in suburban Andheri in December 2, 2002 and placing bomb in bus at Ghatkopar in July 28, 2003 in which two persons were killed.
After these arrests, the spate of blasts in this commercial capital stopped.
BLASTS OF 2002-03
December 2, 2002: Blast in BEST bus in Ghatkopar, two killed, 49 injured
December 2, 2002: Unexploded bomb found in BEST bus at SEEPZ
December 6, 2002: Blast in Mumbai Central station, two killed, 22 injured
January 27, 2003: Blast near Vile Parle station, one killed, over 30 injured
March 13, 2003: Blast in local train in Mulund, 13 killed, over 80 injured
July 29, 2003: Blast in BEST bus in Ghatkopar, 2 killed, 30-odd injured
August 25, 2003: Blasts at Zaveri Bazar, Gateway of India, 54 killed, over 150 injured