Sabotage doubts: Police to re-investigate SM Street fire

via Pioneer News Service | Kozhikode published on September 26, 2008

The State police has decided to re-investigate the case relating to the huge fire at Muhiyuddeen Mosque Road (MP Road) off SM Street in Kozhikode city on April 5, 2007 causing the death of eight persons, injury to several and total destruction of at least 30 shops. The decision to re-investigate the case was taken in the wake of the recent terrorist strikes in various parts of the country and the initial doubts about sabotage behind the fire, which the Crime Branch had ruled out.

Additional Director General of Police Sibi Mathews had on Thursday witnessed SM Street and had held discussions with senior police officials. Part of the reason for reopening the case is some suspicions expressed by top officials of the Karnataka Police investigating the recent blasts.

Two top officials of the Karnataka Police had visited Kozhikode on Thursday and held talks with Sibi Mathews and other State police officials. Though the chief mission of the Karnataka officials was an enquiry into the relations of SIMI operatives with Kozhikode but sources said that they had certain doubts about the fire accident off SM Street.

The Crime Branch had ruled out sabotage as the reason for the fire though several police officers and most of the local people had suspicions of something like that. Eye-witnesses had said that beams concrete beams weighing more than half a ton had been flown to distances up to 60 metres during the accident and that such explosive force was impossible in a fire accident in an ordinary fire-cracker shop.

The Home Department had sent the Crime Branch’s investigation back but this was mainly due to some technical problems.

The fire had started at a fire-cracker shop on the MP Road, Kerala Stationery Mart and had spread to the adjacent shops. Crime Branch Superintendent of Police Rajmohan had headed the probe which took one year for completion during which the probe team had heard depositions from more than 1,000 witnesses. The Crime Branch had concluded that reason for the devastating fire was stocks of fire-crackers in prohibited amounts.

The contradiction in the reports of the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory and the State Forensic Laboratory had caused some inconvenience in the process of investigation. The probe team had considered both reports but it did not base the probe on either. The Central laboratory’s report had found no traces of high-intensity explosive material potassium chlorate in the samples collected from the site while the State laboratory analysis had found traces of the chemical.

The report finalized by PD Somarajan, Assistant Director, State Forensic Explosives Wing, had stated that traces of potassium chlorate were found in the samples collected from the spot of fire. But the examinations carried out by the Central laboratory under the control of the CBI in Delhi had found no traces of the banned explosive material in the remains taken from the scene. The CFSL report had concluded that potassium chlorate had not been used in the firecrackers.

The Crime Branch, which had depended on the report prepared by Somarajan first, had to compare its report with the report of the CFSL as well. The CB had first reported that the reason for the ear-shattering sound and the huge blast(s) that hurled heavy concrete beams around was the presence of banned materials like potassium chlorate in the fire-crackers.

With the report of the CFSL coming out in September last year, the Crime Branch said that huge stocks of fire-crackers, which was way beyond the permitted limits, was the reason for the high-intensity fire. At the same time, the CB had not been able to collect evidences that supported this argument.

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