60 killed in Jaipur blasts, national alert sounded

May 14th, 2008 - 12:23 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Anil Sharma and Murali Krishnan
Jaipur/New Delhi, May 13 (IANS) A series of synchronised bombings ripped through crowded market places in the central Indian tourist city of Jaipur Tuesday evening, killing at least 60 people and injuring nearly 100 others and setting off panic and a stampede in congested neighbourhoods with mixed populations of Hindus and Muslims. The carefully choreographed blasts - timed to go off within a space of 20 minutes - took place in Tripolia Bazar, where a Hanuman temple that drew a large number of devotees is located, as well as Manas Chowk, Badi Choupal, Choti Choupal and Johari Bazar areas.

This is perhaps the worst terror strike in India after the Mumbai train blasts in July 2006 that killed over 180 people.

“At least 60 people have been killed and about double the number injured. It’s incredible,” Rohit Singh, Rajasthan’s chief information commissioner, told IANS.

“You can say it is a terrorist attack. Maximum damage has been caused to human lives,” said Rajasthan police chief A.S. Gill.

The medium intensity explosions, the first major terror attack since the serial blasts in Uttar Pradesh in November last year, threw life out of gear and a national alert was sounded.

Anti-riot police were deployed in some of the crowded areas of the city to thwart any possible retaliation or riots and the entire walled city area was cordoned off.

The mangled remains of bicycles and cars splattered with blood stains pockmarked several of the blast sites. Those hit by the shrapnel thrown up by the blasts writhed in pain even as bystanders moved in to shift them to hospitals.

This is the first terror attack in the state after two pilgrims were killed and 17 wounded in a bomb blast at the Ajmer Sharif shrine seven months ago.

Following the serial blasts, most of the injured were taken Sawai Mansingh Hospital.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the blasts and appealed for calm. . Home Minister Shivraj Patil was forced to cut short his two-day trip to the northeast and rush back.

“There is panic in the city and it is happening in the midst of the Indian Premier League cricket frenzy. Most of the police and security forces are busy in the preparations of the IPL matches,” said Manas Kumar, an eyewitness.

According to police, the first blast took place at the Manas Chowk Police Station area. The second blast was near the most famous sweet shop in the city, Lakshmi Mishtaan Bhandar which is in Johari Bazaar.

The third blast took place in Tripolia Bazar where a Hanuman temple drew a large number of devotees Tuesday while the fourth and fifth blasts were reported at Badi Choupal and Choti Choupal.

“It is clearly a well planned operation and strangely the state police had no intelligence information. All the blasts happened when people were milling around these places,” said a top intelligence officer.

“We have sent a bomb disposal team to Jaipur. The team would be investigating the nature of blasts and chemical used in these deadly blasts,” said J.K. Dutta, the Director General of the National Security Guard.

Home ministry officials said the bombs were planted in bicycles and forensic teams were being dispatched to determine the nature of explosives.

“Look, it is difficult to say what (explosive) was used but it could be RDX or even ammonium nitrate,” said a ministry official.

Rajasthan’s Chief Secretary B.C. Sawant said that police were deployed in all communally sensitive locations.

In the past two years, at least 434 people have died in terror attacks across India. Six serial blasts in the cities of Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi in November last year ripped through civil court premises, killing 13 people.

Jaipur is at the centre of India’s famous Golden Triangle tourist circuit that draws thousands of foreign visitors every year. It was not immmediately known whether any foreign or Indian tourist was a casualty in the explosions.

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