- The Washington Times - Monday, September 1, 2003

BOMBAY — Police charged four persons yesterday with terrorist acts in India’s financial hub, accusing them of setting off three bombs that killed 55 persons to avenge the death of Muslims in religious riots last year.

The suspects — including a married couple and their teenage daughter — were arrested under India’s terrorism law and could face the death penalty.

They are accused in connection with twin car bombings last week in Bombay that killed 52 persons and wounded 150 and a July 28 blast on a bus that killed three persons and wounded 31.

Arshad Ansari, 26, Fahimida Syed Mohammed Hanif, 37, and her 18-year-old daughter, Farheen Rahim, appeared in court in Bombay — the women with scarves covering their heads. Mrs. Hanif’s husband, Syed Rahim, 45, is hospitalized with high blood pressure.

Police said that they believe Mrs. Hanif planted the bomb on the bus, and that the group placed a bomb at an industrial enclave outside Bombay but it failed to explode.

They said the four belong to a local unit of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, one of the main Islamic militant groups staging violent attacks in the divided Kashmir region.

“They call themselves the Gujarat Muslim Revenge Force,” Bombay Police Commissioner Ranjit Sharma told reporters.

Although many Muslims died in last week’s blasts, the government believes the attacks could be linked to religious riots in western Gujarat state last year. More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed after Muslims set a train on fire and killed 60 Hindus.

After the riots, some of the Muslim attackers went to the United Arab Emirates and “met people there,” said Chhagan Bhujbal, the state’s deputy chief minister. “This is a big conspiracy. There cannot be only two or four people behind it, he said.”

In a search of the family’s residence, police said, bomb-making materials were found, including 205 gelatin sticks, 20 detonators, 12 timers, wires and soldering machines.

“They have been charged … for striking terror in the minds of people and committing terrorist acts,” prosecutor Rohini Salian said.

In the Aug. 25 attacks, two taxis packed with explosives blew up within minutes of each other, one at the Gateway of India arch — a colonial-era tourist attraction — and the other at a busy market.

Authorities said the driver of one of the taxis led investigators to the suspects. The driver said two men and a woman had hired him for a two-day sightseeing tour, and that the couple asked him to go and have lunch while they did the same, leaving the taxi before the bombing.

Bombay police officers have said RDX, an explosive favored by Kashmiri separatist guerrillas, was used in the twin attacks.

Pakistan, India’s nuclear rival and neighbor, condemned the dual bombings.

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