Hyderabad toll 15, IM hand suspected
Hyderabad, Feb 22 : The death toll in the two explosions that ripped through the crowded areas of Andhra Pradesh capital Hyderabad Thursday evening rose to 15, officials said on Friday, even as the finger of suspicion pointed towards the Indian Mujahideen (IM).
Officials said at least 118 were injured in the terror strikes, of which five are in critical condition.
Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who reached Hyderabad in the morning, said though there were intelligence reports it was not specific and so the police is not to be blamed at the moment.
"A general alert was given for the last about two-three days to the whole country. It was not a specific area. I don't think the police has failed. It is too early to talk on it," Shinde said.
The blasts in which explosives were strapped in bicycles occurred near two cinema houses and at a foot bridge, just 100 metres apart. Incidentally, the second blast took place within five minutes of the first explosion.
Reports suggest there has been deployment of Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs which triggered the blasts.
No terror outfit has claimed responsibility for the blasts but there is a finger of suspicion towards the Indian Mujahideen (IM). Some reports said IM had recced the area in Hyderabad in the past through.
IM suspected operative Syed Maqbool, who was arrested in Oct last year and interrogated, had admitted to a conspiracy to carry out blasts at the particular site, media reports said.
Meanwhile, a team of top officials from the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is usually entrusted with the probe into terror attacks, and the Intelligence Bureau have reached Hyderabad.
A post-blast investigation team of India's premier counter-terror force National Security Guard (NSG), is also accompanying the team, reports quoting Union Home Secretary RK Singh said.
After the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, India was warned of terror strikes. There were tensions in Andhra Pradesh region in recent times over the arrest of a prominent Muslim leader over a hate speech but the administration has refused to connect the incident to the second.
The blasts occurred in the crowded old Hyderabad part of Dilsukhnagar which is teeming with people and has fruit markets. One of the areas where the blast occurred is under Cyberadabad which has all the IT companies.
The home minister Thursday had said there were intelligence reports of a possible strikes for the past two days and accordingly the states were alerted.
According to reports, intelligence officials shared an alert for a probable strike in a list of cities that included Hyderabad just three days ago.
The alert also mentioned possible attacks in Bangalore, Hubli and Coimbatore.
The alert was reportedly sent out through the multi-alert agency, and it warned of the possible revival of the terror group Indian Mujahideen. It also included warnings of possible reactivation of modules of the deadly Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba in India.
Reports also suggested the wires of a security camera near the site of Thursday blasts had been cut four days ago. Nobody even tried to re-connect the camera, despite the traffic policemen being aware of the lapse.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the blasts dastardly acts.
The PM had also directed the central agencies to extend all possible help to the Andhra Pradesh state authorities in relief operations.
"This is a dastardly attack, the guilty will not go unpunished," Singh had said, adding, "I appeal to the public to remain calm and maintain peace."
India's Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said the government strongly condemned the dastardly act.
"We strongly condemn it and our sympathies are with the victims and families," he had said.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister Kiran Reddy said he has been assured of all assistance from the centre and announced an ex gratia of Rs 6 lakh for the dead.
He said all steps have been taken to prevent any such incident. He visited the spot on Thursday evening.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had condemned the serial blasts in Hyderabad and demanded a complete probe into the terror attack.
"It is a very sad and unfortunate incident and we condemn it," said BJP president Rajnath Singh on Thursday evening.
"All assistance should be given to the victims and I am hopeful the state government will do its best," he had said.