GUWAHATI, July 17 � The explosives used in the Puri Express blast on July 10 last, in which more than a hundred persons were injured, was suspected to have been procured from a shooting range of the Army. However, the police ruled out the possibility of any foul play and observed that because of negligence on the part of the Army, the militants managed to lay their hands on the explosives.
Highly placed police sources told The Assam Tribune that the explosives used in the recent blast by the militants belonging to the Adivashi People's Army (APA) were procured from the heavy artillery shooting range of the Army in Tamulpur near the Indo-Bhutan border. The information came to light after the arrest of the prime accused in the blast, Silvister Tirki alias Rajiv alias Silva Orang, who is the group captain of the APA.
Sources ruled out the possibility of foul play on the part of any Army man in this regard, but said that the Army officials managing the shooting range should have been more careful. Sources revealed that the unexploded heavy artillery shells of the Army were collected by local villagers and sell it to the scrap dealers as the metal used in the shells bring substantial amounts of money. In the past, there have been instances of persons getting killed in accidents while trying to dig out shells. But sometimes, the explosive materials of the misfired shells can be brought out and there have been instances when the militants managed to procure it to make improvised explosive devices (IED). Same is believed to be the case in the Puri Express blast, sources added.
Sources said that the Army authorities should be more careful in this regard and recover the unexploded shells so that no militant can procure the explosives used in the shells. In the past also, there have been instances of militants managing to procure explosives in the same manner and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had reported that the explosives used by the NDFB in the serial blasts on October 30, 2008 were procured in the same way.
Sources also revealed that the militants used TNT to prepare the IED in the Puri Express blast and fortunately the bomb went off just ahead of the train.
Meanwhile, the police managed to get vital information regarding the activities of the APA following the arrest of Tirki. The outfit received help from the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) during its formation and several boys of the outfit were even given training by hardcore militants of the ULFA. The outfit was first formed as Adivashi Viper Army and later renamed as APA.
Sources said that Mohan Kishku of Udalguri district is the chairman of the outfit and Uday Kishku is the commander in chief, while, Edmund Mardi is another key member of the outfit. The activities of the outfit were initially restricted to extortions and a blast on a goods train in Udalguri district three months back was the first major action of the outfit. However, the prime accused of that incident Fransis Murmu was arrested just before the elections.
During questioning by the police, Tirki admitted that they also managed to procure some explosive materials from the coal mines of Meghalaya. The outfit targeted a passenger train to receive all India attention so that it can later come out for talks with the Government, sources added. The outfit also managed to set up camps in the jungle areas of Arunachal Pradesh bordering Assam.
Though the APA maintained good relation with the ULFA, it did not see eye to eye with the NDFB.
Sources said that at least four to five persons were directly involved in the Puri Express blast and efforts are on to nab the others, while, several linkmen of the outfit have already been picked in the manhunt launched following the blast.