A day after Bangalore, 29 killed in Ahmedabad serial blasts (Intro Roundup, updating casualties, adding quotes)

July 27th, 2008 - 1:46 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi
By V.N. Balakrishna in Ahmedabad and Murali Krishnan in New Delhi
July 27 (IANS) A series of 16 synchronised bombings ripped through Gujarat’s main city of Ahmedabad Saturday evening, a day after terror rocked India’s IT hub Bangalore, leaving at least 29 people dead and 88 injured, with the government sounding a nation-wide alert. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said after a meeting of the top police brass that there were 16 blasts, killing 29 people and injuring 88.

The coordinated bombings with explosives planted in bicycles and in lunch boxes, similar to the eight low-intensity blasts in Bangalore, went off within a span of 70 minutes and in an area with a radius of 10 kilometres, setting off panic in congested neighbourhoods in the eastern part of the city, including Modi’s constituency Maninagar.

“The toll is likely to go up and we are just keeping our fingers crossed that everything remains calm,” said Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

In a 14-page email to media organisations minutes before the blasts, a little-known terror outfit, Indian Mujahideen, claimed responsibility and said it was taking “revenge on Gujarat in the land of Hind”. It also threatened to target industrialist Mukesh Ambani and Maharashtra politicians Vilasrao Deshmukh and R.R. Patil in the future.

The same outfit had claimed responsibility for the serial bombings in Uttar Pradesh in November 2007 and those in Jaipur May 13.

“This is just too disturbingly familiar. All the attacks have a signature and we can conclude safely that the perpetrators are the same. The whole problem is we have not been able to pin it down to any organisation,” a top intelligence official told IANS.

The torrent of blasts not only brought chaos but also demonstrated how an entirely new breed of terrorists had emerged, with Indian investigators unable to get to the bottom of at least nine major terror attacks that have rocked the country.

“We have already sent one expert team to assess the blast situation in Gujarat and one more team is going early tomorrow. We have given orders to our officers to provide whatever the state government requires from us,” said Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta.

The areas targeted in Ahmedabad are considered communally sensitive. They are mostly middle class localities with many home to a large population of migrant labour from other parts of Gujarat.

Many of the blasts targeted the city bus service, ripping apart portions of the vehicles. In two cases, blasts took place near the Civil Hospital and the L.G. Hospital when the injured were being brought in, wounding those giving a helping hand.

Two bombs shook the trauma centre at the Civil Hospital, killing several people including two doctors.

S.P. Christian, a doctor at the Civil hospital, said in a voice choked with anger and frustration: “It was a terribly frightening experience as dead bodies, blood and pieces of flesh lay scattered everywhere. When we were removing a body another blast occurred and the body was dropped and everyone ran blindly. What are these evil men who perpetrated this dastardly act trying to achieve? These people have no right to live.”

It took a while for people on an evening stroll in neighbourhoods in the eastern parts of Ahmedabad to realise what was happening as the series of bomb blasts went off at 6.45 p.m.

The first bomb at Jawahar chowk in Maninagar was followed by a blast at the Hatkeshwar vegetable market that left four dead, police and eye witnesses said.

The next blast went off in neighbouring Thakkarbapanagar claiming four lives. Fifteen minutes later, it was the Sardar Patel Diamond Market in Bapunagar that witnessed two successive blasts leaving four dead.

Soon, there was a blast near the Sarangpur bridge in the Old City area, near the main railway station, followed by three more blasts at Isanpur and Maninagar.

In New Delhi, both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi condemned the attacks.

Modi said: “Enemies of the nation have today stained with blood the soil of Mahatma Gandhi’s Gujarat. Terrorists have continued their war against India.

“Killing innocent people is not only a crime but is a form of enmity with the humanity. All those who believe in the humanity should prepare themselves for a long war while maintaining peace,” he said.

“I have spoken to the prime minister (Manmohan Singh) and the home minister (Shivraj Patil). There is a similar pattern in all recent terrorst attacks (in the country). There must be a mastermind operating behind them all,” he added.

Condemning the blasts, senior Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani demanded that President Pratibha Patil give her assent to Gujarat’s long-pending anti-terror law.

“I would demand the president’s assent to the state laws of Gujarat and Rajasthan akin to the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) pending with the (central) government. The Gujarat law has been pending for the last four years,” Advani said.

“I cannot draw any conclusions. The law has been pending for many years and to approve it should be our immediate response,” said Advani, who represents the Gandhinagar constituency, which includes parts of Ahmedabad.

Asked to comment on the fact that recent major terror attacks have targeted three BJP-ruled states, Gujarat, Karnataka and Rajasthan, Advani said: “That is something for the investigative agencies to probe.”

Minister of State for Home Shakeel Ahmed said, “We are surprised and shocked. Yesterday, it was Bangalore. Today it is Ahmedabad. This happened even after the government of India issued high alerts to all sensitive states.”

The state government announced a compensation of Rs.500,000 each for the kin of the deceased and Rs.50,000 each for the injured.

This was the worst attack in Gujarat since the Sep 22, 2002 assault on the Akshardham temple in state capital Gandhinagar that claimed 46 lives.

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