NEW DELHI - Indian police said Saturday they had arrested a top militant accused of helping mastermind the 1993 Mumbai blasts and over 40 other deadly bomb attacks across the country.
Seventy-year-old Abdul Karim Tunda, an alleged member of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group, was arrested by a special Delhi police team near the border with Nepal on Friday.
“This arrest is a huge achievement for the country’s security agencies,” SN Srivastava, Special Commissioner of police, told a news conference in New Delhi.
The bespectacled Tunda, sporting a long red hennaed beard and clad in a white loose long shirt, was paraded in front of reporters in the Indian capital by police. They accused Tunda of being a “well-known LeT explosive expert and terrorist” and said they had been seeking him for his alleged role in 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai which killed at least 250 people in a single day.
The 1993 attacks targeted hotels, offices, buildings and banks in India’s financial hub and were seen as retaliation for religious rioting in which mainly Muslims died following the razing of an ancient mosque. He also “masterminded” bomb blasts in Delhi in 1997-98 and a string of bombings elsewhere in the country, Srivastava told reporters.
“Tunda is one of India’s most-wanted and his name figures in the list of top-20 terrorists. We arrested him from the Indo-Nepal border. He had a Pakistani passport with him,” Srivastava said.
Tunda fled in 1994 to neighbouring Bangladesh, where he trained radical young people in bomb-making, Delhi police said, adding he also stayed briefly in Pakistan before returning to India.
Police did not say where Tunda had been living most recently. “In almost all the blasts in Delhi during 1996-98, Tunda’s men had detonated bombs using pencil batteries,” Srivastava alleged.
The man accused of planning the 1993 Mumbai blasts, underworld boss Dawood Ibrahim, is still at large. Tunda’s arrest comes as India has been stepping up efforts to improve domestic security since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which 10 Islamist gunmen laid siege to the city, killing 166 people.
India accuses the LeT of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks that badly strained relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
India had named Tunda in a dossier that it handed over to Pakistan following the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which it listed the names of those believed to have been behind the conspiracy.
Srivastava added: “He had tried to cause serial explosions in India in 2010, just before the (Delhi) Commonwealth Games. However, some of his men were arrested by police in the process, while others are still absconding.”