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Sep 13, 2006 at 10:29pm IST

Nashik, Malegaon get terror scare

Malegaon: Less than a week after four blasts killed 31 people in Malegaon, a bomb scare in this textile town and the seizure of explosives in nearby Nasik sparked fresh panic and prompted authorities to tighten security measures.

The discovery of an unclaimed box in a shopping complex near Mohammedia Madrasa Centre and mosque in the heart of Malegaon triggered the bomb scare.

A National Security Guard (NSG) bomb squad examined the box and found it contained "a miniscule amount of the explosive substance used in firecrackers" mixed with soil and stones and a pair of batteries, said Inspector General of Police (Nasik range) P K Jain. He described the incident as an attempt to "create communal tension" in the town.

Earlier, Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) officials had said an explosive device was found in the shopping complex.

In the district headquarters of Nasik, police seized five gelatin sticks, 18 detonators, a locally made pistol and two cartridges from a flat in Indira Nagar locality and arrested four men.

Three of the arrested were identified as Wasim Jabbar Ali Sayyad (23), Joheb Gulam Sarbarkhan (22) and Phirojkhan Pathan alias Munna (24), while the name of the fourth man was not disclosed.

Acting on a tip-off, police seized the explosives from a flat in Rajsarthi Society, acting Commissioner of Police Param Veer Singh told a press conference where three arrested men were produced.

Singh said the arrests and seizure of explosives had no connection with Friday's blasts in Malegaon that killed 31 and injured nearly 300.

In Malegaon, a large contingent of the Rapid Action Force was deployed as police and religious leaders made announcements on the public address system, calling for calm as people ran in fear out of the shopping complex where the box was found.

Police kept people away from the complex while the media too were advised to stay out. Residents were asked to switch off cellphones to rule out the possibility of detonating any explosive device. The box was taken to a nearby school ground where the experts examined it.

Jain said the authorities had taken some time in completing their examination of the box as the NSG bomb squad had left Malegaon and had to be called back. Confusion was also created when sniffer dogs gave a "positive indication" after smelling the substance in the box, he said.

Police said the law and order situation in Malegaon was under control but the "anxiety level" among people had gone up.

Officials in Nasik said two teams of the Crime Branch have been sent outside the district after interrogation of the four arrested men revealed more persons were involved in the case.

Singh said the tip-off that led to today's arrest was given by Munna, who was detained by police last night after the detection of 18 detonators near Lifeline Hospital in Nasik two days ago.

Police suspect that the four men are linked to the August 31 kidnapping of Juber Harun Rangrej, a city resident abducted by four persons and dumped near Trimbakeshwar after being shot.

They also suspect the detonators found near Lifeline Hospital, close to Rangrej's house, were meant to blow up his residence.

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