Investigators collecting information to verify UBA claim

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ISLAMABAD: Investigators are collecting details to verify the United Baloch Army’s claim that it carried out Wednesday’s explosion in Islamabad’s fruit and vegetable market in which 24 people were killed and 122 injured. The interior ministry has already rejected the outlawed UBA’s claim. Officials privy to the investigation told Dawn on Thursday that provincial police departments, especially of Balochistan, and Frontier Corps had sought record of UBA’s criminal and terrorist activities.

They said militant outfits had different methods of operation and their profiles, available with intelligence agencies, would help police investigate the deadly incident.

“Although the UBA was not found involved in any terrorist activity in the federal capital, its claim is being taken seriously,” one of the officials said. He added that earlier four men belonging to the Balochistan Liberation Army had been arrested by the Islamabad police for their alleged involvement in fighting against the army in Swat, Buner and Bajaur.

His attention was drawn to a statement by the interior ministry that the UBA was not involved in the Sabzi Mandi bomb blast. The official said investigators were not aware of it.

The investigation was in early stages and, therefore, the involvement of any outfit could not be ruled out, the official said, adding that the focus was on the UBA because it had claimed responsibility for the attack. Because of the claim the investigators are looking for those Baloch who run fruit business.

The officials said the terrorists who were behind the blast could be traced because it had been established that the bomb was detonated by remote control. They said explosive devices were detonated through different gadgets, including mobile phone.

The man who had detonated the bomb was near the area and he could be identified through geo fencing of mobile numbers, the officials said, adding that data about the mobile phones functional in and around Sabzi Mandi were being collected. The status of the injured is also being verified.

The officials said police had arrested 10 suspects in Qaboola and three in Vehari. The arrests were made following the identification of a mini-truck which was believed to have brought the crate containing the explosives, they said, adding that the men were guava farmers, traders and transporters.

Twenty-five people were picked up in Islamabad on suspicion. The officials said Sabzi Mandi traders had spotted them roaming suspiciously at the time of the blast.

The investigators are probing whether the explosive device was brought in the truck or someone had placed it among fruits.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences turned down a request by police and the capital administration to conduct internal autopsy of every victim of the blast. The vice chancellor of the university informed police that internal autopsy on 24 bodies might take three to four days and there was a shortage of manpower, officials said.

They said the request had been made in view of the complications faced by police while investigating the suicide attack on the district and session courts in Islamabad. Because of the external autopsy on the body of the additional district and sessions judge who was killed in the attack, the investigators found it difficult to ascertain whether he was killed by attackers or his gunman.

AFP adds: The interior ministry rejected the UBA’s claim that it carried out the bombing at Subzi Mandi.

“Initial investigations have revealed that the United Baloch Army has no links with yesterday’s attack,” a spokesman for the ministry said in a statement on Thursday. “Accepting responsibility by this organisation for the blast is not only surprising but ridiculous.”

A senior official in Balochistan said he shared the interior ministry’s scepticism about the UBA claim. “Baloch groups don’t have the capability to strike outside Baluchistan. Even in Balochistan they are restricted to specific areas where they carry out their attacks,” he said.