Eight terror blasts rock IT hub Bangalore, one killed (Intro Roundup)

July 26th, 2008 - 1:28 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By V.S. Karnic and Fakir Balaji
Bangalore, July 25 (IANS) Eight bombs went off within an hour in Bangalore’s central business district and other crowded areas Friday afternoon, killing a woman at a deserted bus stop, injuring seven people and putting the focus on terror cells in India’s IT hub once again. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh joined the nation in condemning the well-planned terror strike that triggered panic as phone lines went dead and traffic piled up on Bangalore’s even otherwise chaotic streets. Many cinema halls and shopping halls besides IT firms quickly closed their operations and asked employees to head home.

Authorities in New Delhi and Karnataka appealed for calm and announced that they were determined to track down the terrorists.

The prime minister urged people to remain calm and maintain communal harmony. He sanctioned an ex gratia of Rs.100,000 to the next of kin of the dead woman, Lakshmi, and Rs.50,000 to the injured.

Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who heads Karnataka’s first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, said the blasts were aimed at disturbing peace and creating panic.

The blasts took place between 1.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. “This is the work of anti-social elements and anti-national forces,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

“Bangalore enjoys the reputation of being the fourth largest tech hub in the world. It is the centre for IT and BT. The people of Karnataka are known for peace and tolerance. This is a pre-planned action to create panic and disturbances.”

M.R. Pujar, the additional commissioner of police, law and order, told IANS late Friday night that eight blasts had taken place in which one person was killed and seven were injured.

The first explosion took place at Madiwala, about 10 km from the city centre where Lakshmi was killed when splinters from a concealed bomb hit her head, the police said. The last of the blasts took place at Richmond Town, an upscale residential and business area, five kilometres from the city centre.

Among the other places where the bombs went off were Nayandhalli, 10 km from the city centre, Adugodi, close to Madiwala, Koramangala, an upscale residential and commercial area, and Vittal Mallya Road.

The explosions, triggered by timer devices and mobile phones, caused more panic than damage but revived fears that terrorists were increasingly making the city their base.

“Explosives equal to the quantity of one or two grenades have been used and the blasts were triggered by timer devices and mobile phones,” Bangalore Police Commissioner Shankar Bidri told reporters.

“It appears to be an act to create panic in the city,” he said. “We will investigate and arrest the suspects.”

Life in most parts of the city remained normal but traffic piled up in areas where the blasts occurred, partly because hundreds of curious people gathered to watch the security forces in action hampering police investigation.

At most places, the explosives were placed under garbage. At Madivala, the bomb was concealed near an electricity supply transformer, the police said.

“It is clear that it is a well-planned operation, intended more to spread terror than to cause damage and dent Bangalore’s image as a safe and peaceful city,” a police official said.

In New Delhi, Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta described these as “low intensity blasts” and said security agencies were collecting evidence. He said it would be too early to say who was responsible.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil condemned the serial blasts and promised all help to the state government in tracking down the perpetrators as authorities in several states put security forces on high alert.

“The ministry is in close touch with the Karnataka government. Such incidents will not deter the government from pursuing its policy of dealing with anti-national elements in a resolute manner,” Patil said.

This is not the first time Karnataka has been hit by a terror attack. In December 2005, the militant Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out an attack at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science campus killing a scientist.

The blasts sent equity markets crashing, even as the corporate sector expressed worries over its impact on the country’s $65 billion IT industry that houses companies like Infosys, Wipro, Intel, Microsoft and Yahoo!.

“The blasts may be the strategy of unscrupulous forces to undermine the primacy of Bangalore as a global knowledge centre,” said Amit Mitra, secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Anil Aggarwal, the former president of the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Assocham), said the blasts were a bad omen for India and its industry, which was already facing a series of hardships. “This gives the impression that terrorists can strike any city.”

The BJP blamed what it said was the central government’s “soft approach” towards terrorism for the incident. BJP president Rajnath Singh made the remarks in New Delhi.

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