At least four people, including two women, were killed and one person was seriously injured in an explosion at an illegal firework manufacturing factory in Naihati in North 24 Parganas district, West Bengal on Friday. Noor Hossain, the owner of the factory, has been arrested from Amdanga area in the district on Friday night and a suo motu case of accidental murder along with other sections has been registered against him.
“We are interrogating Noor Hossain,” a senior police officer said, adding that a forensic team will visit the explosion site on Saturday. All four people killed in the blast were workers at the illegal factory.
The blast was of such high intensity that tremors were felt in houses located at least two to three kilometres from the blast spot. The roof of the factory was blown away by the blast and most of the walls collapsed. Given the intensity of the blast, locals allege that the illegal fireworks factory was used to manufacture crude bombs, not just fireworks. Police officials have also said that the factory had some strong explosives.
Bharatiya Janata Party MP Arjun Singh demanded a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) saying that the factory could have terror links. “I visited the spot after the blast. There are several such illegal factories in the area. But they actually manufacture crude bombs under the garb of firecrackers. It is very likely that these units have Khagragarh-like terror links and needs to be probed by the NIA,” said Singh.
Following the blast in the illegal fireworks factory, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar sought a probe into the explosion, saying the administration should be held accountable as there are allegations that crude bombs were being manufactured in the factory.
“Several deaths in blasts at the factory at Masjidpara, Naihati has pained and shocked me. Allegations that crude bombs were being made in illegal factory warrants intense expert probe. Accountability of all in the administration needs to be fixed promptly,” the governor said in a tweet addressed to CM Mamata Banerjee.
.@MamataOfficial. Several deaths in blasts at factory at Masjidpara, Naihati has pained and shocked me. Allegations that crude bombs were being made in illegal factory warrants intense expert probe. Accountability of all in the administration needs to be fixed promptly.
— Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) January 4, 2020
West Bengal has been a constant concern for national security agencies as it has been a safe haven for terrorist activities due to political patronage. A similar blast in October 2014 in a house at Khagragarh in Burdwan town, about 100 km from Kolkata, had then exposed a network of Bangladeshi jihadi elements running an arms and explosives factory in the state.
The Burdwan blast on October 2 had occurred in a rented two-storeyed building in Khagragarh, reportedly owned by Nurul Hasan Chowdhury, a Trinamool Congress leader. The ground floor of the building was allegedly used as a party office.
Two suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists were killed and a third person was injured in the explosion that occurred in the residential building. The explosion led to the discovery of a cache of arms and ammunition. Two persons, identified as Shakil Ahmed and Swapan Mondal, died in the blast. The injured identified as Abdul Hakim (alias Hasan Saheb), was severely injured
The National Investigating Agency (NIA), which was probing the Burdwan blast, had then unearthed a chain of illegal madarsas, which were being used as a cover for providing training to militants.
According to the seven-page preliminary report submitted by the NIA then, the terror groups most of whom are members of the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, a Bangladeshi outfit, have managed to infiltrate and start operations with the help of local support. They were also given a free hand by the local police in whatever they did. As a result, they indiscriminately built up bases, purchased agricultural land to set up illegal madarsas, recruited locals for subversive activities, gave arms training and imparted ideological lessons.
JMB started activities in West Bengal in 2008 when two of its senior leaders, Talha Sheikh and Sohail Mahfuz crossed over to West Bengal to evade arrest and persecution in Bangladesh. Both were accused in the serial blast in Bangladesh that JMB carried out in 2005, the very year the outfit was founded.
The two, making a base in West Bengal, started working quietly on recruitment and training. This duo created several modules and ‘sleeper cells’ in the districts of Murshidabad, Birbhum, Nadia and Burdwan over the coming years.