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Thursday, 6 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 06 Nov

Army officer arrested for role in Malegaon blasts

Indo-Asian News Service

Wednesday, November 05, 2008 (New Delhi)

A serving Indian Army officer has been arrested by Maharashtra's Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) for his alleged involvement in the September 29 Malegaon blast that claimed six lives, an army official said here on Wednesday.

Lt. Colonel Srikant Purohit was arrested late on Tuesday in Mumbai, where he was being interrogated by the ATS for the past few days.

"Custody of Lt. Colonel Purohit was given to Maharshtra ATS after they sought permission in this regard," an army official said.

The ATS began interrogating Purohit after his name cropped up in investigations following the arrest of two retired Indian army officers for their role in the Malegaon blasts.

Purohit is suspected to have helped bomb blast accused sadhvi (Hindu monk) Pragya Thakur, retired army major Ramesh Upadhyaya and his associate Sharad Kulkarni in procuring RDX used in the blasts.

Malegaon Blasts
Lt Col Purohit arrested
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, November 5
The anti-terror squad of the Maharashtra police have formally arrested Lt Col Srikant Purohit in connection with the Malegaon blasts in October last, which claimed the lives of five persons. Lt Col Purohit, who was being questioned by the ATS under the supervision of senior army officers was formally, arrested today, police officials said.

However earlier in the day, the army headquarters in Delhi denied that the Lt Colonel was arrested and that he was only detained by the police. The police said Purohit would be produced before a court in Nashik. Lt Colonel Purohit had been questioned over his links with Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and others who are in custody for their alleged roles in the Malegaon blasts.

Among the incriminating evidence allegedly found by the police include mobile phone messages sent by the army officer to Sadhvi Pragya and others accused in the case. The police said the army officer had visited the Bhonsala Military School, a private institution in Nashik, where the conspiracy to carry out the blast was hatched. Other arrested persons include S.S. Raikar, the principal of the school, and others connected with it.

They are also said to belong to an organisation called the Abhinav Bharat founded by controversial freedom fighter Veer Savarkar and later dissolved by him. The body was revived a few years ago.

To undergo narco test

Nashik: A court here today ordered scientific tests on Purohit after the Maharashtra police charged him with transferring huge amount of money through illegal channel to one of the accused in the case. CJM K.D. Boche allowed the Anti-Terrorist Squad to conduct polygraph, brain mapping and narco analysis of Lt Col P S Purohit and remanded him to police custody till November 15. — PTI

DRDO to test 2 crucial weapons soon
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 5
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will conduct tests over the next few months to validate the technological developments of two crucial defensive weapon systems.

“We will be testing the Mareech anti-torpedo system for the Navy between December and March,” A.S. Pillai, chief controller, DRDO, told The Tribune here today. The Mareech is a decoy system designed to protect naval vessels from enemy torpedoes.

Also on the cards are “certain” tests on the anti-ballistic missile, which are expected to begin next month. “Only one major test involving a missile launch is required to validate the technology,” he said. The missile has already been tested in the endo-atmospheric and exo-atmospheric spheres.

Pillai, who is also the chief of BrahMos Aerosapce, an Indo-Russian joint venture producing the world’s only supersonic cruise missile, said the DRDO is also having a joint programme with ISRO to set up two advanced weather radars in the northern Himalayas. The radars, which are expected to be operational within a year’s time would be able to forecast weather over a distance of 300 km, thereby substantially improving the accuracy of weather prediction and mitigation of avalanches.

Besides weather-related projects, the DRDO also had joint programmes with ISRO in the launch of the Chandrayan mission to the moon. “The booster for the PSVL C-9 was fabricated by the DRDO, while the BrahMos facilities manufactured several other components, including the fuel tank. The DRDO would also be joining the ISRO on some aspects of ISRO’s proposed manned mission to the moon.

Dassault Seeks Level Playing Field
for IAF Combat Jet Order

By Vishnu Makhijani

French aviation major Dassault, whose Rafale fighter is one of the six aircraft in the fray for a $10 billion Indian Air Force (IAF) order for 126 combat jets, has sought a level playing field in the competition, saying two sets of mismatched planes are in the fray and that it does not want to lose out on this count.

"The Rafale, as a twin-engine aircraft, is a heavier jet and is in the same class as the (Boeing) F/A-18 Super Hornet and the (Eurofighter) Typhoon. The other three aircraft are in the lighter variety," J.P.H.P. Chabriol, Dassault Aviation's senior vice president for military sales, told a group of visiting Indian journalists at the company's headquarters here.

"The IAF's RFP (request for proposal), in the first analysis, in terms of performance, is not extremely demanding. We don't want a situation where the other three aircraft are compliant with the RFP but we lose out on the price differential," Chabriol added.

"The IAF has to decide whether it wants a heavy aircraft or a light aircraft," he contended.

The other aircraft in the fray are the Lockheed Martin F-16, the Saab Grippen and the MiG-35. The first two are single-engine aircraft while the third has a twin power plant but is considered a lighter jet since it is essentially an upgraded version of the MiG-29 that the IAF currently operates.

What concerned Chabriol was that the price of the jet would depend on whether a light or a heavy aircraft got the IAF nod.

"Quite obviously, there would be a price differential if a single or a twin-engine jet is chosen. If India takes the L-1 (lowest tender) route this would be unfair because we have a good product but this quality comes at a price," he maintained.

In this context, Chabriol noted that Dassault had made an "unsolicited offer" for selling 40 Rafale aircraft to India, an indication that the company would not be too disappointed if it did not win the larger order.

"We have had a presence in India since independence (in 1947) The first jet that the IAF flew was the Toofani, followed by the Mystere and the Mirage-2000 (that entered squadron service in the 1980s). Then, your navy has flown the Alize. The Rafale would be the logical next step," he pointed out.

"Three of your former air chiefs (Air Chief Marshals A.Y. Tipnis, S. Krishnaswamy and S.P. Tyagi) have flown the Rafale and certified it to be a good aircraft. There is no reason why we should not get the order," Chabriol contended.

Dassault is the prime contractor for the Rafale, which is currently in operation with the French Navy and the French Air Force. It has also entered into collaborations with a number of French companies to supply various systems for the aircraft. Primary among these companies are electronics major Thales, which has supplied 90 percent of the optronics for the fighter, and Snecma, which supplies the engines.

In addition, the company has floated Rafale International to co-market the aircraft.

The IAF had floated its global tender for the jets in September 2007 and these were opened earlier this year. The technical bids are currently being evaluated after which all the six aircraft will be put through a rigorous testing process in Bangalore, Jaisalmer and Leh.

The first is meant to gauge the aircraft's ability to operate in the humid conditions of south, the second their effectiveness in the deserts of Rajasthan and the third to study their suitability in the icy Himalayan heights of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.

By the time the evaluation process is complete, the size of the order is likely to rise to around 200 jets, as the IAF, which is down to 32 squadrons from a high of 39 1/2, is expected to see a further depletion of its fleet due to the retirement of some its ageing Soviet-era MiG-21 aircraft. The IAF has a sanctioned strength of 45 squadrons.

India tests indigenous main battle tank

Fits Arjun with Bofors gun

By Aharon Etengoff @ Wednesday, November 05, 2008 10:47 AM

India has successfully tested its first indigenously-developed main battle tank (MBT).

The official Proof and Experimental Establishment (PXE) conducted trials of the Arjun and its advanced Bofors gun at Chandipuron, 15km from Balasore.

"The important test was functioning proof of Fin Stabilised Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot (FSAPDS) ammunition for Arjun. Today's tests, aimed at demonstration, showed encouraging results in terms of accuracy, acceleration and ballistic performance," explained PXE director Anoop Malhotra.

According to Malhotra, the Arjun weapon system is capable of firing both kinetic energy and chemical energy projectiles. The MBT is also fitted with secondary armaments, including a 12.7mm air defence gun and 7.62mm co-axial machine gun.

"The 130mm gun system of Russian origin is a potent weapon which can fire and destroy targets up to a range of 27.5km. The 105mm Indian field gun is the mainstay of Indian artillery. The FSAPDS ammunition with maximum nuzzle velocity of 1660m/s can defeat an armour target of 450mm thickness at a distance of 2.5km," added Arjun.

Development of the Arjun has reportedly been plagued by a number of glitches, including low accuracy, frequent breakdown of power packs and gun barrel malfunctions. However, the MoD has now granted a green light for the deployment of the Arjun, allowing the fulfillment of an army order for 124 tanks.

As IT Examiner previously reported, the Indian MoD has launched a slew of new defence projects designed to reduce the country's dependence on foreign imports. For example, the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) is currently developing a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) designed to deploy laser target designators (LTDs) deep inside enemy territory.

"We are planning to base LTDs on UAVs to cut down the risk of our troops getting caught inside enemy territory while illuminating targets for attack and save the cost of sending another aircraft for doing the task," explained a senior MoD official.

In addition, the Indian Air Force (IAF) recently tested an upgraded version of the Lakshya drone. The micro-light pilotless target aircraft was fitted with an advanced, digitally-controlled engine and successfully flown from the Integrated Test Range in Balasore. The indigenously-designed Lakshya was developed by the DRDO for the training of gun/missile crews and air defence pilots.

Indian Army officer arrested for role in Malegaon bombing (Lead)

November 5th, 2008 - 7:01 pm ICT by IANS -

New Delhi, Nov 5 (IANS) An Indian Army officer has been arrested for his suspected involvement in the Sep 29 bomb blast in Maharashtra’s Malegaon which killed five people and was blamed on a Hindu militant group, a defence official said here Wednesday.This is the first case of a serving Indian Army officer being taken into police custody for terrorism related activities.

Mumbai’s anti-terrorism squad arrested Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit late Tuesday, said the defence official, who pleaded anonymity because his service rules do not allow him to speak to the media on record.

Purohit, said to be a founding member of the Abhinav Bharat, a radical Hindu right-wing group, was being questioned for his “links” with other suspects of the Malegaon blasts.

Members of the Abhinav Bharat have been linked to the deadly bombing in Malagaon. The police suspect that Purohit helped bomb blast accused Sadhvi (Hindu missionary) Pragya Thakur, retired army Major Ramesh Upadhyaya and his associate Sharad Kulkarni in procuring explosives used in the blast. The three are already in police custody.

“A request to detain Purohit for questioning was received yesterday (Tuesday) and the permission was granted by the Indian Army by (the) evening,” the official said.

Purohit, posted in the army’s Intelligence Corps, was sent to Mumbai by the army to the Maharashtra and Gujarat Area (M&G) headquarters six days back to facilitate ATS’ investigation.

Mumbai Police officers questioned Purohit for six days in the presence of an army official before placing him under arrest.

The ATS had sought permission to arrest the accused officer, who was doing a foreign language course from Army Education Corps college at Panchmari, so as to confront him with other arrested suspects in the case.

A first information report has also been registered against Purohit in Mumbai.

The ATS began interrogating Purohit after his name cropped up during investigations following the arrest of two retired Indian Army officers for their alleged role in the Malegaon blast.

Armyman managed Hindu group's finance

Money was transferred from his account through hawala, says ATS

Vaishali Balajiwale. Nashik

Lt col Srikant Prasad Purohit, posted at the Army Education Corps Training College and Centre in Panchmarhi, Madhya Pradesh, was arrested by the Anti-Terrorist Squad on Wednesday for his suspected role in the Malegaon blast on September 29.

Army officers handed him over to the ATS in Mumbai at 12:10 am and he was arrested at 9:30 am. The chief judicial magistrate's court in Nashik remanded him in police custody till November 15.

Being a senior army officer, Purohit may have knowledge of arms and ammunition, including RDX, the prosecution told chief judicial magistrate DK Boche. Public prosecutor Ajay Misar pointed out to the court that the Forensic Science Lab in Kalina had found traces of RDX in the remains collected from the blast site.

The prosecution also said Purohit played a key role in managing the finance of the Hindu group, Abhinav Bharat. The ATSsuspects huge amount of money was transferred from his account to various other accounts. Misar claimed that the money was transferred through hawala.

The prosecution said Purohit's name cropped up during the interrogation of Maj (retd) Ramesh Upadhyay, another blast suspect. Upadhyay had told the ATS that he and Purohit had attended many meetings in places like Haryana, Kashmir, Pune, Bhopal and at Bhonsla Military School. Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur was present in some of these meetings, the prosecution said.

The prosecution also submitted the panchnama of weapons seized from another suspect Rakesh Dattatray Dhawade, an arms researcher. The ATS claims that Purohit gave Dhawade four weapons and some cartridges to keep.

After the court remanded Purohit in police custody, the prosecution sought its permission for narco, polygraph and brain-mapping tests on him. The court granted the permission after Purohit agreed to the tests.

The court rejected an application by Uma Bharati's Janshakti party seeking permission to meet Pragya Singh, as the party intends to field her in the assembly elections in MP.

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