Investigators chased leads across India on Thursday in search of the Mumbai train bombers, as the government came under pressure to unblock blogging Web sites cut off in the wake of the deadliest terrorist bombings since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Web sites—at least some written by Hindu nationalists—were blocked two days after the bombings last week that killed 207 people in an effort to stop extremists from stirring up religious violence that has sporadically plagued Hindu-Muslim relations in India.
But even as police on Wednesday again assured an anxious India that investigators were on the verge of a breakthrough, they said e-mailed claims of responsibility for the bombings turned out to be a hoax.
“It appears that a boy ... in Bhopal sent out these e-mails only for publicity,” said K.P. Raghuvanshi, the police officer leading the investigation. Bhopal is a city in central India.
In the e-mails, sent Saturday and Tuesday to Aaj Tak television, the boy posed as the spokesman for a group called Lashkar-e-Qahhar, or the Army of Terror, taking responsibility for the bombings and warning of more attacks.
Raghuvanshi, speaking to reporters, provided no details on how police determined that the e-mails were part of a hoax or about the boy behind it.
Lashkar was unknown before it took credit for twin bombings in March that killed 20 people in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, and it was unclear if that claim of responsibility was also a hoax.
A cross-country investigation
Since the bombings, investigators said they have followed leads throughout India, including in the northeastern state of Tripura where they questioned 11 Muslim preachers who have spent the past three weeks delivering sermons in remote villages along the border with Bangladesh.
“Some issues are being clarified,” Raghuvanshi said of the questioning. “Nothing has come out of that yet. Some more questioning will be done.”
Authorities fear Muslim militants might be smuggling weapons and munitions over that border.
Police also said they were questioning five men arrested elsewhere in the northeast to see if they were connected to the blasts.
“We are chasing every lead that could take us to the perpetrators of this crime,” Raghuvanshi said.
“We have made some definite progress,” he added, refusing to elaborate.
Suspicions of Pakistan link
Police and officials have repeatedly suggested Islamic militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir—namely the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba—are behind the blasts.
Kashmir is a predominantly Muslim Himalayan region divided between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan and claimed by both.
India’s suspicions of a Pakistan link to the Mumbai bombings have prompted New Delhi to slow a two-year peace process with its archrival.
“For the time being, the dialogue process has suffered,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters on the flight home from St. Petersburg, Russia, where he was an observer at the summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations.
Suspicion fell on Islamic militants within hours of the attack, raising fears of a repeat of the Hindu-Muslim riots that have periodically erupted in India.
Web sites blocked
Two days after the bombings, the government ordered a number of blogs blocked, said Rajesh Malhotra, the spokesman for India’s Information Technology Ministry. He refused to elaborate.
But in the efforts to shut down the blogs, all access to a number of blogging Web sites, including the popular www.blogspot.com, were blocked.
“We are trying to rectify the situation technically by blocking only the 17 sites specified in the government order,” said Amitabh Singh, executive director of India’s Internet Service Providers Association.
The full list of blocked Web sites was not released, though at least some were written by Hindu nationalists.