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CID probe ordered into blast in Bengal firecracker factory

CID probe ordered into blast in Bengal firecracker factory

Kolkata: At least 12 people were killed and four others injured in an explosion that ripped through an illegally-operated firecracker factory in West Bengal's West Midnapore district, police said on Thursday. An opposition leader claimed the casualty figure was at least 20.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered a probe by police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID), but the BJP demanded that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) be called in, claiming that it was a terror act similar to the Burdwan blast on October 2 last year in which two Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants were killed and another was injured.

The Congress also rooted for the NIA.

The explosion took place late on Wednesday in Brahmanbar village in Pingla area of the district, some 120 km from here.

Villagers said the house was used for making crude bombs.

"Twelve people were killed and four others were injured. The evidence collected so far indicate it was a fire cracker factory running illegally," Inspector General of Police (Western Zone) Siddh Nath Gupta said.

On allegations that the factory was actually used for making bombs, Gupta asserted it was a cracker manufacturing unit but said police were looking into the allegations.

"Besides a bomb disposal squad, witnesses and survivors have confirmed it was a fire cracker factory. A forensic team is collecting evidence. Being a marriage season, a large amount of crackers was being manufactured," he said.

"We have arrested the house-owner for running an illegal factory and we are also looking into all the complaints that have been made in this regard," Gupta added.

The injured were admitted to the Midnapore Medical College and Hospital in the district.

Speaking at a government event at Namkhana in South 24 Parganas district, Banerjee said the CID has been entrusted with the probe into the incident.

"The incident is very unfortunate and we have ordered the CID to probe it," she said.

The opposition assailed the Trinamool on the issue.

Alleging that illegal bomb making factories were thriving in all districts under the patronage of police, CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kantha Mishra claimed the involvement of the Trinamool Congress in the killer blast and demanded a court-monitored probe.

"In our state, over extensive areas of all districts and covering almost all police stations, bomb making factories were thriving under the patronage of the police... West Bengal is sitting on a powder keg," he said.

"We want the court to monitor whoever conducts the probe," Mishra said replying to a query.

Mishra said Left Front leaders and legislators, who rushed to the spot, claimed the casualty figure could be at least 20.

Training his guns at the Trinamool, he said: "The ruling party is involved. The owner of the house is a Trinamool leader. The person who had rented the room has died in the explosion along with his wife. Both were Trinamool activists."

"There are reasons to believe that the links extended to other states, especially some districts in Tamil Nadu."

The Bharatiya Janata Party said the incident was an "extension" of last year's Burdwan blast.

"This is not an isolated incident but an extension of last year's blast in Burdwan in which terror outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujhahideen Bangladesh was involved. We all know police will never do anything to solve the case so we demand an NIA probe," BJP's state unit president Rahul Sinha said.

Former state Congress president Manas Bhunia, who met Governor K.N. Tripathi over the issue, said: "Besides sending the state police chief to the spot, the chief minister should immediately urge the centre for an NIA probe into the matter."

"Despite our repeated reports that the factory was being illegally used to manufacture bombs, police refused to pay any heed. Had they taken action, this tragedy could have been averted," a Brahmanbar resident said.

The locals as well as the BJP also claimed that arrested house-owner Ranjan Maity was a Trinamool leader and was involved in the incident. But the ruling party denied the charge.

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