Indian terror suspect 'aided Pakistan'

INDIA'S accusation that Pakistani intelligence was involved in the gruesome string of bomb attacks in Bombay on 12 March 1993, killing more than 260 people, has gained momentum with the arrest of a key terrorist suspect.

Described by police as 'a prize catch', Yakub Memon, 33, is an accountant whose brother, Ibrahim 'Tiger' Memon, is one of Bombay's underworld gang leaders and the man who allegedly plotted and executed the bombings. The Home Minister, S B Chavan, said that Yakub Memon was 'a conspirator and financier' of the blasts which ripped through Bombay's Stock Exchange and several crowded bazaars.

Indian security sources said yesterday that Mr Memon had expressed fears that his family now would be 'eliminated' by Pakistani authorities. Mr Memon told his interrogators that he and his family had been held 'like hostages' in an army compound in Karachi.

Pakistan's alleged role emerged with Mr Memon's confession that the day before the explosions, he and his family flew to Dubai, where he was met by Pakistani officials who then flew them to Karachi. On arrival, Mr Memon was given a Pakistani passport, a national ID card and a driving licence.

Mr Memon is also accused of providing over pounds 30,000 for some of the terrorist recruits to travel to Pakistan for explosives training. Pakistan has always denied any connection with the Bombay blasts.

Relations between Pakistan and India, always seething, are now worse. Pakistan is threatening to shut the Indian consulate in Karachi, and in Islamabad the secret police are harassing Indian diplomats and their families. Armed with Mr Memon's testimony and his fake Pakistani ID papers, Indian authorities are preparing to renew their battle to have the US and Europe denounce Pakistan as a terrorist nation.

The arrest of Yakub Memon is seen as the first breakthrough in the Indian police's 18-month investigation into the Bombay bombings. The police had tried to camouflage their failure by the much-publicised arrest of a film idol, Sanjay Dutt, for allegedly buying a semi-automatic rifle from a member of the Memon gang.

The actor's ties with the actual bombers are tangential at best, and the charges against him have only infuriated the press and the public against the investigators.