Tragic memories of black Saturday haunt victims

August 24th, 2008 - 4:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Aug 24 (IANS) A year after Hyderabad was rocked by twin bomb blasts that snuffed out 43 lives, the real culprits remain at large while memories of the black Saturday still haunt numerous families.It was the evening of Aug 25, 2007 when a powerful explosion devastated Lumbini Park near the state secretariat, killing people enjoying a laser show. Moments later, another but more powerful bomb ripped through Gokul Chat, a popular eatery that was packed at that time.

Ten people were killed in the first blast, seven of of them tourists from Maharashtra. The number killed at the eatery in Koti, a business hub and a haunt of book lovers, was 33. Another 20 were injured.

Coming three months after the blast during Friday prayers at the historic Mecca Masjid that killed nine people, the twin blasts became this 400-year-old city’s worst terror attacks. They instilled a sense of insecurity in this truly cosmopolitan city of over seven million people.

While the failure to crack the case is frustrating the police, the memories of that day haunt many families as well as survivors. The blasts shattered many dreams.

Prathyusha, 21, wanted to go to the US for higher education. After buying a book, she dropped at her favourite Gokul eatery — only to die. Her family is yet to come to terms with the loss.

“The tragedy and her memory will always remain fresh in our minds. The wounds will not heal easily,” lamented her father J. Narasimha Sharma, who works in a private firm.

M. Susheela, 32, a bus conductor, had gone to Koti to buy ‘rakhis’ along with two relatives. On his way home, they stopped at the eatery for snacks when the bomb went off. All three died instantly.

“The failure of the investigating agencies to catch the culprits is painful for us,” said Susheela’s elder sister Chandrakala, who now looks after Susheela’s five-year-old son Sai Kiran.

“Terror attacks ignite passions. After hearing repeatedly how terrorists killed her mother, he says he wants to become a police officer to punish the guilty,” said Susheela, while trying to fight her tears.

The only hope of a head constable’s family. Akramullah Khan, 19, was studying B.Com and also doing a part-time job. He was the only brother of five sisters.

On the fateful day, he was travelling in an auto-rickshaw with two of his sisters. He asked the driver to stop at Gokul Chat and went in alone to take a parcel.

The two sisters watched in horror as their brother died in the massive explosion. The family said that not a single day passes without her mother Jeelani Begum crying for him.

The blast wiped out an entire family. Mohammed Saleem, 42, a realtor, his wife Syeda Farida Naaz, 37, and their sons - 8-year-old Amir and 6-year-old Mohammed Ali — had gone to Lumbini Park to see the laser show.

Half hour before the blast at the park, the family left for Goklu Chat as the children were more keen on savouring chat. Moments after the family entered the eatery, the powerful bomb killed them all.

A year later, the police still appear to be groping in the dark. The investigating agencies could not go beyond blaming the Bangladesh-based terror outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HUJI), believed to be also responsible for the Mecca Masjid blast.

They could only confirm that terrorists used Neogel-90, an ammonium nitrate base, in the IEDs, a pattern seen again in Ajmer and Jaipur blasts this year.

As many as 97 suspects were picked up for questioning and 21 were jailed on suspicion of their links with HUJI terrorists but the police have still failed to crack the case.

The police are clueless about where the bombs came from, how they were brought to Hyderabad and who planted them. As a result, not one single man directly involved in the explosions was arrested.

Police officials argue that it was not easy to crack the cases as the HUJI commanders, including Shahid alias Bilal, a native of Hyderabad, operate from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The 97 picked up by the police included a few Bangladeshis staying illegally but they were not found linked to the terrorists. A majority of the suspects was let off.

Police said the terror group entrusted the job of smuggling and transportation of explosives, manufacture, planting and carrying out the attacks to different people, making it difficult for the investigating agencies to identify the real culprits.

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