The improvised explosive device (IED) containing suspected RDX and ammonium nitrate found at the gate of the Ghazipur flower market on Friday was placed there to “cause maximum damage and casualties” since nearly 4,000 people were present inside the market when the bomb was spotted, senior police officer associated with the investigation said.
The officers said that a case under the explosive substances Act has been registered, and they were probing an “attempted terror strike by a terrorist outfit from any neighbouring country”. They said if the explosives would have gone off, it could destroyed everything in the radius of 60 to 70 metres.
The IED found near Gate number 1 of the wholesale market had a timer device attached to it. It was destroyed by the bomb disposal squad of the National Security Guard (NSG) through a controlled explosion that was done inside an eight-feet-deep pit dug in the market premises.
“The controlled explosion left a two-feet hole which indicates that on the ground it could have damaged nearly half of the market’s buildings. A major tragedy has been averted otherwise hundreds of lives could have been lost,” said a police officer associated with the case.
According to the police officials, the IED was assembled in a metal box and kept in a black and grey laptop bag. Some wires and white powder were found inside when the bag was opened, suggesting that ammonium nitrate was also one of the ingredients of the bomb.
NSG director general M A Ganapathy told HT that prima facie analysis of samples taken from the bomb site suggests “RDX and ammonium nitrate was used”.
The recovery and destruction of a strong IED at the gate of the Ghazipur flower market triggered panic among the shopkeepers and nearly 4,000 people who were present in the market when the explosives bag was spotted by a real estate company’s employee. He found the bag near his scooter that was parked just outside gate number 1 of the market, said Mohammad Salim, who runs a wholesale flower shop there.
“The flower market has an average daily footfall of 15,000 to 20,000 between 4am and 7am — the peak business hours. By 10am, half of the shops are closed and the crowd also recedes. By around noon, the entire market is empty. Our business is usually held between 2am and 10am. Hundreds of people would have died had the bomb exploded between that period,” said Salim, adding that no checking of vehicles or individuals is done at the market despite it being an important wholesale area.
Vijay Sisodia, former chairman of Ghazipur flower market, also said that a major tragedy could have taken place had the IED exploded during the peak business hours. Sisodia said the entire market is covered by CCTVs but did not give the exact number of cameras installed there.
“There are cameras at the entry and exit gate as well. I am sure the suspect who placed the bag outside the gate was captured in one of the cameras. There are 411 licenced shops in the market. Many unauthorised shopkeepers also run their businesses from the market. Despite the Covid-19 situation, the market has a daily average footfall of nearly 10,000,” said Sisodia.
Investigators said the presence of RDX among the explosives indicate the role of a terror outfit from across the border. Some Delhi Police officers, who have probed terror related cases in the past, were of the opinion that RDX was mostly sourced from another country, and smuggled into the national capital through Jammu and Kashmir or Punjab.
Besides the explosives found at the flower market, an IED weighing around 5kg was also recovered in Amritsar on Friday. “IED consignment weighing 5kg approximately which includes 2.7kg RDX recovered by STF from Gharinda area in Amritsar just 2.5km from the international border,” Punjab Police chief Viresh Kumar Bhawra tweeted on Friday evening.
A special cell officer, who asked not to be named, said the last time RDX was used in any bomb blast in Delhi was during the 2005 Delhi serial blasts in which 62 people had lost their lives and over 200 were injured.
“After 2005, RDX was not used in the other blasts that were carried out by terror outfits in Delhi between 2008 and 2011. In all the following blasts, ammonium nitrate was the common explosive because it is easily available. RDX can be sourced only from our neighbouring countries,” the officer added.
Officials said that the investigating agencies are also probing a suspected link between the recent Ludhiana blast and the recovery of the IED in Delhi and Punjab on Friday.