Indian police arrest alleged top terrorist and explosive expert

Indian policemen in plainclothes surrounding Abdul Karim Tunda, (centre in white cap), prior to him being escorted to court, in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013. -- PHOTO: AP
Indian policemen in plainclothes surrounding Abdul Karim Tunda, (centre in white cap), prior to him being escorted to court, in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013. -- PHOTO: AP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian police said on Saturday they had arrested a top member of a banned militant outfit accused of helping mastermind over 40 deadly bomb attacks across the country, including the 1993 Mumbai blasts.

Seventy-year-old Abdul Karim Tunda, an alleged member of the banned Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group, was arrested by a special Delhi police team near India's border with Nepal on Friday.

"This arrest is a huge achievement for the country's security agencies," S.N. Srivastava, Special Commissioner of police, told a news conference in the national capital.

Police accused Tunda of being a "well-known LeT explosive expert and terrorist" and said he was sought for his alleged role in 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai, which killed at least 250 people in a single day.

The 1993 attacks targeted hotels, offices, buildings and banks in India's financial hub and were seen as retaliation for religious rioting in which mainly Muslims died following the razing of an ancient mosque.

He also "masterminded" bomb blasts in Delhi in 1997-98 and serial bombings elsewhere in the country, Srivastava told reporters.

"Tunda is one of India's most wanted and his name figures in the list of top 20 terrorists. We arrested him from Indo-Nepal border. He had a Pakistani passport with him," the commissioner said.

The man alleged to have planned the 1993 Mumbai blasts, underworld boss Dawood Ibrahim, is still at large.

The arrest comes as India has been stepping up efforts to improve domestic security since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which 10 Islamist gunmen laid siege to the city, killing 166 people.

India blames the LeT on carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks that badly strained relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours.