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SIMI’s role into Bengaluru blast being probed

Investigators are probing possible role of banned outfit SIMI in the terror attack outside a restaurant here that left a woman killed and three others injured, as NIA and police also explored different angles and government announced a raft of measures to beef up security, particularly in crowded areas like malls.

“There is a possibility,” said Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, when asked whether the men – said to be members of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India or SIMI – could have been involved in the blast in which one woman was killed. As investigators pieced together the available leads on the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) triggered explosion, the National Investigation Agency began assisting the city police which sent out teams to Chennai and Pune where the bomb blasts had occurred in the past.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah reviewed security situation with state Home Minister K J George and top police officials and announced further tightening of security, including installation of CCTVs in “vulnerable” places with dense movement of people such as malls, cinema halls and hotels. Briefing reporters, he said, “all angles” were being looked into the blast, which was described as “terror attack” by the Centre.

Bhavani (38), who was here from Chennai, was killed and her relative and two others injured when they were hit by shrapnels in the explosion of the IED hidden in a potted plant along the compound wall of the restaurant in the central business district that is teeming with people on weekends. “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.”

City Police Commissioner M N 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.” On involvement of SIMI whose five members had escaped from Madhya Pradesh’s Khandwa jail and reports of their visiting the state, Reddi said, “We are looking into it as well.”

In Delhi, Rijiju told reporters, “It was a terror attack.” Emerging from a high-level security review meeting, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said an idea about the nature of the blast and who could be behind it could be ascertained only after a proper probe.

Singh said Centre would provide all possible help to Karnataka in the blast case and asked the state government to install adequate number of CCTVs in prime areas of the country’s IT hub. On the possibility of handing over the probe to NIA, Singh said it would be only after collecting the relevant information.

“If necessary, we will hand over the investigation to the NIA,” he said. Rijiju said investigators were trying to piece together the leads and “it is too early to say anything” on who could be behind the blast. Siddaramaiah said a special team headed by Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) had been formed. All the three injured were out of danger, he said. He said the bomb was planted where plants are grown along the compound wall of the restaurant, located on Church Street that along with MG Road and fashionable Brigade Road attracts huge crowds as the area is lined bars and restaurants.

“It looks like they might have planted the bomb when it was dark.” Siddaramaiah said Public Safety Enforcement Act on the lines of the one in Andhra Pradesh would be put in place that would mean that CCTVs must be installed by the owners of places which see movement of hundreds people like cinema halls, hotels, malls and other places. “Our police have studied that Act and prepared a draft so as to implement such Act in our state also. We have decided to introduce Public Safety Enforcement Act.”

In a makeover to inject professionalism into the Intelligence Department, a separate cadre would be created, besides beefing up cyber security by recruiting 40 engineers to provide technical support, he said. Siddaramaiah said the Union Home Minister had collected information from him about the incident and promised all “possible support”. “We are in constant touch with them. IB team has come, they are also collecting the information.”

Rejecting suggestions of Intelligence failure, he said security was stepped up in the light of earlier blasts in the city and also after the arrest of alleged pro-IS Twitter account handler Mehdi Masroor Biswas here recently. “We have maintained constant contact with Central government.”

Asked about the possible link between the blast and the 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.”

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