NEW DELHI – Indian police on Sunday claimed a breakthrough in the Oct. 29 triple bombings in New Delhi after arresting an alleged Kashmiri conspirator, and said they have valuable information that could lead to the capture of four others, including the bombers.
Tariq Ahmad Dar, allegedly a key member of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba militant group, was arrested in Kashmir's city of Srinagar on Thursday and brought to New Delhi for interrogation the next day, Delhi Police chief K. K. Paul told reporters.
Dar himself did not plant the bombs that killed 60 people and injured 200 others and wasn't in New Delhi at the time, but "the identity of the bombers is more or less confirmed and we are searching for them," Paul said.
He said Dar is believed to be the "financier, coordinator, spokesperson and front man" of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, the most prominent group in Kashmir.
The attacks in three crowded markets, including a bomb that was thrown from a bus, took place on the eve of the major Hindu festival of Diwali, as thousands of people were doing last-minute shopping.
The authorities' assertion that the bombings were the handiwork of Lashkar — until now only hinted at — is likely to bolster Indian complaints that Pakistan is doing little to control Kashmiri militant groups based in its territory.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, speaking to reporters in Dhaka, Bangladesh where he attended a regional summit, said "indications do suggest external linkages" in the bombings.
They occurred at a time when India and Pakistan were making significant progress in their efforts to end nearly six decades of enmity, largely centered around the Himalayan region of Kashmir that's divided unevenly between the two.
India holds the bigger portion where it is trying to control an Islamic separatist insurgency that has left more than 60,000 people dead since 1989. Kashmiri militant groups such as Laskhar want either a merger with Pakistan or total independence.
Singh said "there has been a trust deficit" in the India-Pakistan relationship. "It is our obligation to convert that deficit into a surplus," he said, adding that the two countries have no choice but to make peace.
"I have said it earlier also. We can choose friends but not our neighbors ... we have to do business with the government in power in our neighborhood. Therefore using harsh language is not the best way to promote dialogue or understanding," he said.
Dar, the alleged bombing conspirator, has not been formally charged, but police have obtained a court's permission to detain him for 14 days for further investigation to help catch at least four other suspects, including those who planted the bombs, police commissioner Paul said.
While two of them are from Kashmir, the others were "foreign nationals," Paul said without elaborating.
"What he [Dar] has told us, and the details we have, there is sufficient evidence to prove the conspiracy," he said. He is alleged to have been in New Delhi between Oct. 4 and 6 to scout the locations where the bombs, made of RDX, were to be planted.
Dar works as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company in Srinagar, the summer capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state, but had received a deposit in his bank account of $10,900 from abroad a few days before the bombings, Paul said.