New Delhi: A red motorbike has been found in Delhi's Lado Sarai area and the police are trying to verify if it is the one used to stick a bomb on the car of an Israeli diplomat on Monday. Investigators say a "very well-trained" single person on a motorcycle drove up to the Toyota Innova car and attached a device to it while it was waiting at a traffic intersection. The car exploded within seconds, injuring four people, one of them, an Israeli diplomat's wife, seriously.
Magnetic bits were found on the car, indicating the use of a "sticky bomb". This is the first time that such a technique has been used in an attack in India and could pose a new security challenge.
The small size of the bomb makes it easier for the planter to get away without being noticed and then trigger it remotely. The palm-sized "sticky bomb", when thrown, sticks to the first solid block it touches without rolling or falling. The device explodes after three seconds of being attached to the target vehicle.
The Delhi Police will also meet officials at the Israel embassy today as part of their investigations.
Meanwhile, as investigators try to connect the dots of the bomb attack, the US has said it has offered to help with the probe, but is not sure of India's stand. "We have offered our assistance. Frankly, I don't know where we are in terms of the Indian government taking advantage of that," US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said when asked if India has sought any help from the country.
The Israeli diplomat's wife who was in the car when the explosion took place on Monday is still critical. Tal Yehoshua-Koren, 40, was on her way to pick up her children from the American School when the blast happened. Three other people, including the driver of the car, received minor injuries. Ms Yehoshua was operated upon to remove shrapnel from her spine on Monday night. Her left leg is partially paralysed for now. She also has injuries in her lung and liver.
The Delhi Police had detained five people after the incident but they were let off after questioning.
"We think the target was the Israeli diplomat's wife and therefore we have to assume this was a terror attack," Home Minister P Chidambaram said yesterday. Officials in the Home Ministry added, "Who planned and who did it will be known only after investigations are over. At this stage it is premature to name any country."
In an off-camera briefing, the police also said that they cannot say if Iran can be blamed for the attack, even as sources said the probe is veering towards the resident Iranian population.
In its search for the biker assailant, the Delhi Police is conducting raids on guest houses and hotels across the city where foreigners usually put up and are checking their documents. Sources say that investigations are focusing on Iranian residents in India following the premise that the execution of the attack was "outsourced."
The police are also investigating the security lapse in one of Delhi's most secure zones; the blast site was very near the entrance to the Prime Minister's 7 Race Course Road residence. Security has been tightened in the area.
Investigators have ruled out use of RDX in the blast, saying the assailant possibly used a sulphur-based explosive since the car instantly went up in flames. Officials of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) also surveyed the blast spot yesterday and studied the damaged vehicle which, initial investigations show, was blown up by a remote controlled device and not one with a timer.
Israel has also passed on information to India about two suspects who are currently in the custody of the Georgian police over a bomb being found in the car of a local employee at the Israeli embassy in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on Monday. That bomb was defused by the local police. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that the two incidents are linked and has blamed Iran and the militant group Hezbollah for both attacks.
"We witnessed today two attempted attacks on innocent civilians, the first one on an Israeli citizen who was injured in New Delhi, and the second one on a local employee at the Israel embassy in Georgia. Iran, who stands behind these attacks, is the biggest terror exporter in the world. The Israeli government and the its security forces will continue to work hand in hand with the local security forces against such acts of terror, and we will continue to act against them forcefully, systematically and calmly against international terror originating from Iran," Mr Netanyahu said.
Israeli Ambassador to India Alon Ushpiz told NDTV, "Iran has been openly calling for the destruction of Israel. This was planned in Tehran."
Iran has, however, firmly denied the allegations. Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran's foreign ministry spokesperson said, "We categorically reject the accusations made by the Zionist regime. They are part of a propaganda war... Iran condemns all acts of terrorism."
India, which will have to walk the diplomatic tightrope, has assured Israel of a serious and thorough investigation. External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said, "We do not want to speculate on Iran's role. The investigating authorities are fully involved and would be in a better position to tell us who was behind it once their investigation is complete...spoke to the Israeli foreign minister last night and reassured him that everyone in the embassy would be given ample protection." Mr Chidambaram said on Monday, "I understand that the External Affairs Minister has spoken to his counterpart in Israel and we have assured them that the investigation will proceed until we find the perpetrator of this attack."