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India arrests 4 over January blast outside Israeli embassy

Police source tells Indian daily that officers are questioning college students from Kashmir ‘to ascertain their role’ in the explosion

National Security Guard soldiers inspect the site of a blast near the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, India, on January 30, 2021. (Dinesh Joshi/AP)
National Security Guard soldiers inspect the site of a blast near the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, India, on January 30, 2021. (Dinesh Joshi/AP)

Indian police on Thursday announced the arrest of four suspects in connection with a blast outside Israel’s embassy in New Delhi earlier this year.

No one was injured in the January 29 explosion, which blew out the windows of several nearby cars. The explosion occurred on the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and India.

Police said the suspects were college students from Kargil, a town in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir, which is at the center of a dispute between India and Pakistan. The four were brought to New Delhi for questioning after being arrested in Kargil, the Indian Express newspaper quoted police sources as saying.

“Police are questioning them and trying to ascertain their role,” an unnamed senior police source told the daily.

Citing security sources, the report said an initial forensic examination indicated the device in the blast had pentaerythritol tetranitrate, an explosive material that has been used by al-Qaeda to make bombs.

The arrests came a week after India’s National Intelligence Agency released security camera footage showing two suspects allegedly planting explosives outside the Israeli embassy and announced cash rewards for any information leading to their arrests.

Policemen stand guard near the Israeli Embassy after a blast in the area in New Delhi, India, on January 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Rishi Lekhi)

In March, the Hindustan Times reported that India had concluded that Iran was behind the blast, with the device planted by a local Shiite cell. The report said investigators concluded the attack was carried out by the Quds Force, the overseas branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and that the device was detonated by remote control.

According to the report, there was an attempt to mislead investigators into blaming the Islamic State terror organization for the bomb, but counter-terrorism agencies were clear that it was an Iranian attack.

A letter found close to the scene of the blast was a death threat to the ambassador that warned he was being constantly being watched and vowed to avenge the deaths of “martyrs” Qassem Soleimani, the Quds Force commander who was killed in a January 2020 United States drone strike; Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a top Iraqi militia commander who was killed along with Soleimani; and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s nuclear program, killed in a November 2020 attack Tehran has blamed on Israel.

The handwritten note, in English, but riddled with grammatical and spelling errors, was addressed to Israel’s ambassador, Ron Malka, and referred to him as a “terrorist of the terrorist nation.”

Channel 12 news reported at the time that Israeli explosive experts and the Mossad intelligence agency were involved in the investigation.

Israeli missions had already been on alert around the world, in the wake of the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist in November of last year. Tehran has blamed Israel and promised revenge.

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