West Bengal's deputy labour minister Jakir Hossain, who sustained bomb injuries along with 22 Trinamool Congress (TMC) workers at Nimtita railway station in Murshidabad district on Wednesday night, may not have been the actual target, suspect some senior officials probing the case. They suspect a larger terror plot by terror outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh.
A senior officer associated with the probe said on condition of anonymity that examination of the remains of the exploded bomb clearly indicates that it was a socket bomb of high quality. It was kept in a bag that was lying on the platform.
"We have doubts if common criminals in Murshidabad have the expertise to make this kind of bomb. Some of us suspect the involvement of the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) as its operatives are experts in making these," the officer said.
"We suspect that JMB operatives might have brought the bomb to the station for a big terror attack, possibly an explosion in a packed passenger train. They might have had plans to trigger an explosion inside the Teesta Torsa Express that the minister was about to board. These angles are being explored," the officer added.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has entrusted three state agencies including the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) with the probe while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have demanded a probe by Central agencies.
Murshidabad, where Muslims comprise 66.28% of the population, the state's highest, followed by 51.27 % in adjoining Malda district, shares border with Bangladesh.
Local police and railway officials said before the Republic Day Central security agencies sounded an alert in reference to all stations in the Malda division of the Eastern Railway. Nimtita is one of these.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an officer of the state intelligence branch (IB) said, "Door frame type metal detectors were installed at Malda Town and Azimganj stations and additional forces are still posted at Farakka station. However, security is comparatively less at Jangipur, Dhulian Ganga and Nimtita stations."
"We suspect that taking advantage of this, the culprits brought the bomb to Nimtita," said the IB officer mentioned earlier.
Incidentally, on February 10, a Kolkata court of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) ordered a 29-year jail sentence for Kausar, founder of the JMB's third unit in Bengal, for his role in the 2018 bomb blast in a rented house at Khagragarh in East Burdwan district. Two JMB operatives, who were making bombs in the rented house, were killed.
Kausar, 31, who was arrested by the NIA from a guest house in Bengaluru in August 2018, is an accused in the 2018 Bodhgaya blast as well and he recruited several people. The Khagragarh blast exposed a network of Bangladeshi terrorists in the eastern state.
The NIA and the Special Task Force (STF) of the state police have nabbed several JMB militants from Murshidabad district in recent years. The NIA has also nabbed several Al-Qaeda suspects from the district which shares a border with Bangladesh.
A second IB officer said, "We think the culprits fled the platform when they saw the minister and his men entering the station. The bomb went off when one of the minister's followers tried to remove the bag from his path. In the mobile phone video that surfaced, several men could be heard saying 'there is a bag' and then we saw the bomb going off."
On Saturday, officers of the Suti police station in Murshidabad recovered an abandoned gunny bag with more than 50 kg gunpowder near the electricity department office at Aurangabad.
Local police officers said there are some firecracker factories in Suti that hoard gunpowder illegally. "After the Nimtita explosion several agencies and local police are conducting raids. It seems someone left the bag out of fear," an officer from Suti police station said on condition of anonymity.
In November last year, the NIA arrested Abdul Momin Mondal, 32, from Nazrana village in the Raninagar area of Murshidabad in connection with the probe into the Al Qaeda network in the state. In September last year, the NIA arrested 10 people from West Bengal and Kerala.
"Investigation revealed that the accused Abdul Momin Mondal was working as a teacher in Raipur Darul Huda Islamia Madrasa in Murshidabad district and was found to be involved in a series of conspiratorial meetings convened by the members of the Al-Qaeda module. He was also trying to recruit new members for the group and was raising funds for furthering its terrorist activities," the NIA said in a statement.