Bomb kills one in Mehrauli, high alert in Delhi (Roundup)

September 27th, 2008 - 8:48 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 27 (IANS) A 13-year-old boy had his head blown off when a bomb dropped by two young men from a motorcycle exploded with a deafening roar in a crowded market in the Mehrauli area, in the second terror attack in the Indian capital in a fortnight. Seventeen people were injured, many seriously, and the authorities quickly sounded a high alert in the city.The congested Mahrauli Sarai electronic market, in the city’s southern outskirts less than two kilometres from the towering Qutb Minar monument, was enveloped by smoke and fear as the bomb went off during the afternoon rush.

The bombers, believed to be in their mid-20s, in jeans and their heads covered by helmets, sped away on their black Pulsar motorcycle, the police and witnesses said. A similar motorcycle was found abandoned elsewhere in the city.

The bombed site is near Jahaj Mahal where Delhi’s most syncretic festival, Phool Walon ki Sair, is held each year, a heritage that has continued since the times Mughals ruled the capital.

Police said the dead boy, Santosh Kumar, picked up the bomb concealed in a lunch box and wrapped in a black polythene bag and tried handing it back to the motorcycle riders, thinking they had dropped the packet by mistake.

As the bomb began emitting smoke, the frightened child dropped it and tried to run away. But within seconds, it exploded, killing him and felling many men and women in the vicinity.

Many suffered multiple splinter injuries — on their hands, legs, stomach, face and head.

In no time smoke filled the entire area, almost blinding everyone. Windows of shops as well as houses in a wide area were blown off.

The explosion created panic in the nearby flower market as well. Shreds of glass pieces and mangled metal parts of sign boards were strewn all over the street. Several parked vehicles were damaged.

“There was a huge explosion that shattered the peace of the crowded market place,” shopkeeper Raminder Mann recalled. “People ran in all directions.”

Another shopkeeper who was among the first to rush to the bombed site said he saw several people lying on the street. Pools of blood quickly formed.

“There was a lot of smoke, everything was hazy. I could not see properly. People were shouting. Since there were no policemen, we began to rush the injured to hospitals in cars and autos.”

A middle-aged woman gave a slightly different account of what happened.

“There were two people on a bike. I was on a scooter. They were trying to overtake me. Then it slowed down.

“An object like a papaya fruit wrapped in a newspaper was rolled on the road. After a few moments, I heard a major explosion. Then there was smoke everywhere.”

Residents complained that the police took more than an hour to reach Mehrauli. The police had initially thought that a cooking gas cylinder had exploded.

The police later said the bomb was a crude one and had no timer attached.

Shopkeepers and residents rushed the injured to the Sardarjung Hospital and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), about 10 km away, first in private vehicles. Ambulances soon joined the race.

“An alert has been sounded in the wake of the blast in Delhi,” Delhi Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.

Additional police personnel were deployed along with bomb disposal squads at Delhi Metro stations, railway stations and inter-state bus terminals. Extra security cover was provided at all religious places in the capital, the spokesman said.

Police put up barricades at various road intersections and sniffer dogs were deployed at railway stations. Metal detectors were placed at entry points of many busy markets.

Police were stopping people on black Pulsar bikes, the same make of motorbike used by the terrorists.

Although Saturday’s bomb attack was on a low scale compared to the five bombings Sep 13 in three crowded areas that killed 24 people and injured at least 124, political sparks quickly flew.

In no time Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani thundered that the Congress-led government had failed to provide effective governance. BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra asked Home Minister Shivraj Patil to quit.

Hundreds of policemen soon rushed to Mehrauli and cordoned off the bombed site. Forensic experts and personnel from the National Security Guard (NSG) collected evidence from the area.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil convened an emergency meeting with senior officers. He also met External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the most senior minister in the absence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who was in the US.

Delhi Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal called for calm. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit announced a compensation of Rs.50,000 for each of the injured and Rs.500,000 to the family of the dead boy.

Condemning the blast, Dikshit said: “Terrorists are targetting innocent people. I appeal to people to be alert and support the security agencies. I also appeal to political parties to stay united in this hour of grief.”

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