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India Says Military Explosive Used in Taxi Blasts

The material, which requires expertise, may have been smuggled in. Police fear more attacks.

August 28, 2003|Shankhadeep Choudhury | Times Staff Writer

BOMBAY, India — Investigators confirmed Wednesday that two terrorist teams that wreaked havoc here this week had powered their lethal car bombs with RDX, a high-energy military explosive.

The explosions of two taxis in Bombay on Monday within 15 minutes of each other -- at the crowded Zaveri Bazaar jewelry hub and the historic Gateway of India monument -- killed 52 people and injured more than 150 others.

"We are certain that the car bombs were packed with RDX, after conducting a thorough analysis of the samples collected from the blast sites immediately after the explosions," said Rukmini Krishnamurthy, who heads the State Forensic Laboratory in Maharashtra state.

RDX is a white crystalline solid usually used in mixtures with other explosives, oils and waxes. Also known as cyclonite or hexogen, it is considered one of the most powerful military explosives. Two pounds of it can blow up a commercial aircraft.

Police had no official comment on the forensics report, saying it had not yet been sent to them, but they privately expressed grave concerns because the RDX would have to have been smuggled in and requires considerable sophistication to use.

"That the RDX consignment could enter [Bombay] shows that the border is porous," a senior officer said.

Beyond that, he said, "it could mean further blasts, as we can assume that not all the RDX has been used up."

No arrests have been made. Authorities had said Tuesday that they were searching for the people who had rented the taxis before the explosions.

Though Bombay has experienced as many as seven blasts during the last nine months, traces of RDX were found only in the two this week.

Most of the other bombs, investigators said, used "locally available chemicals" such as ammonium nitrate and gelatin sticks.

In fact, authorities said, it was the first time RDX had been used in Bombay since March 1993, when a series of bombs killed about 300 people in what was seen as retaliation for the deaths of minority Muslims after Hindu-Muslim riots.

At the time, police claimed that the RDX was smuggled in through land and sea routes from Pakistan, the nuclear-armed neighbor that India traditionally has accused of engineering bombings and other attacks in the disputed Kashmir region and elsewhere.

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