By V.N. Balakrishna, IANS
Ahmedabad (Gujarat), Jul. 26, 2008| A day after terrorists targeted Bangalore with eight low-intensity bomb explosions, 16 bombs went off within a span of an hour in Gujarat’s main city Ahmedabad Saturday evening, leaving at least 14 people killed and over 70 injured.
Several TV channels said they had received an email from a little known terror outfit called Indian Mujahiddin claiming responsibility for the terror attacks, even as intelligence sources pointed to the similarity between Saturday’s blasts and those in Bangalore and Rajasthan capital Jaipur on May 13.
All the blasts took place in the eastern part of the city, including Maninagar, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency.
The targeted areas are considered ‘communally sensitive’. They are mostly middle class neighbourhoods with many having a large population of migrant labour from other parts of Gujarat.
Police officials said at least 70 people were rushed to the Civil Hospital and the V.S. Hospital and added the number of the wounded could go up. Most of the blasts targeted the city bus service, ripping portions of buses apart. The explosives were planted on bicycles as well as tiffin or lunch boxes.
The first bomb went off in Maninagar area at Jawahar chowk at 6.45 p.m. followed by a blast at the Hatkeshwar vegetable market that left four dead, police and 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 Isanpur and Maninagar, where three more blasts occurred.
Narol on the outskirts of the city was hit with a blast that left two dead and four seriously injured which included a woman and her son.
Another blast was near the Sangam theatre in Muslim-dominated Sarkhej area when a bomb exploded in a city bus while it was in motion. Two blasts also occurred near the LG Hospital. The final blast was near the Galaxy cinema at Naroda area.
Residents in the affected areas, though shocked, soon joined the rescue
“At first I only heard an explosion. I did not know what was happening. Suddenly there was chaos all around. Nobody could understand,” recalled a horrified Balakrisha Mehta, a software professional returning home in Maninagar area.
“Then we saw several bicylces reduced to pieces and realised it was possibly a terror attack. Soon, we joined efforts to rescue the injured and rushing them to hospital,” he said.
Modi condemned the blasts as “utterly inhuman” and appealed to people to maintain calm and not to venture outside their homes.
“Terrorists will not succeed,” Modi said, adding that a thorough inquiry would be conducted into the blasts.
A high alert has been sounded in the state especially in the main cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot.
The Ahmedabad railway station and the Sardar Patel International Airport were sealed. All entrance and exit points of the city too has been have been sealed.
Gujarat Urban Development Minister Nitin Patel said: “As far as my information is concerned, at least 15 people have died. Over 100 have been injured. At this point of time we are trying to maintain law and order and rescue people.”
India’s Minister of State for Home Affairs Shakeel Ahmed said in New Delhi: “We are surprised and shocked. Yesterday, it was Banglore. Today it is Ahmedabad. This happened even after the Government of India issued high alerts to all sensitive states.
“We condemn the blast,” the minister said, assuring the Gujarat government “of all possible assistance.
“If they need any assistance, the Government of India will provide it,” Ahmed said.
“Let the hour of crisis pass. We will seek information from the Gujarat government. Let normalcy return.”
Asked about the claims of the so-called Indian Mujahiddin claiming responsibility for the bombings, the minister said: “We will give a detailed report after analysing the state government’s report. Let the state government report come first.”
According to central Minister of State for Home Sri Prakash Jaiswal: “The blasts seem to be on the lines of yesterday’s Bangalore blasts. It is a conspiracy to unsettle the country. All metros are on high alert.”
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi condemned the blasts and appealed to people to maintain calm.
Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani, who represents the Gandhinagar constituency which includes part of Ahmedabad, criticised the Congress-led central government. “The anti-terror legal framework of the government has been weakened after the repealing of the POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act). The alacrity with which the government should have responded to the
anti-terror elements has not been there,” he said.
This was the worst attack in Gujarat since the Sep 22, 2002 attack on the Akshardham temple in state capital Gandhinagar, which claimed 46 lives.