By V.N. Balakrishna, IANS
Ahmedabad, Jul 27, 2008 | The death toll in the serial bombings that ravaged Ahmedabad rose to nearly 40 Sunday, with at least eight people succumbing to their injuries. Up to 20 people remain critical while security agencies are engaged in finding out who carried out the carnage.
As the police probed the claim by the Indian Mujahideen that it carried out the well-coordinated explosions, Indian troops conducted a flag march in the old parts of Ahmedabad to instil a sense of security among residents and to prevent any backlash to Saturday’s bloodbath.
The police defused a bomb Sunday morning at Hatkeshwar in Maninagar, Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency that suffered six explosions Saturday. A bomb was also defused Saturday night on Sarangpur road. Both bombs were left at vegetable markets – to inflict maximum casualties.
The bomb at Maninagar was placed on a cycle, police sources said. The name of “Raju Ramprakash Gupta biscuitwala” was engraved on its handlebar.
Saturday was the second day straight of serial bombings in India after eight bombs went off in quick succession Friday afternoon in Bangalore, India’s IT hub, leaving a woman dead and half a dozen people injured.
In comparison, the Ahmedabad bombs were more lethal and in a space of just 36 minutes exploded in 16 different locations, including a hospital, killing at least 39 men, women and children and injuring around 100 people.
Most of the injured were in two hospitals of Ahmedabad – the Vadilal Sarabhai Hospital and the Civil Hospital, the city’s biggest that also witnessed twin bombings. Doctors said 15-20 people were in critical condition.
Chief Minister Modi urged the people to maintain calm. In New Delhi, Home Minister Shivraj Patil said: “This is the time when we should not allow anybody to make use of these blasts to create more terror and more difficulties for the people.”
Police sources said 30 suspects had been detained in Ahmedabad.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) Abhay Chaudsma said several units had been set up to probe the bombings. He said prima facie it appeared that ammonium nitrate had been used to make the bombs in Ahmedabad.
Asked if the highly lethal RDX could have also been used, he said the police would await a report from forensic experts. “But gas cylinders were used (in the hospital), that is for sure.”
On Sunday, as Ahmedabad tried to come to grip with the carnage, the smell of death hung over the Civil Hospital where a powerful bomb went off near a parked ambulance van and then near the door of the trauma centre. It was the first time terrorists have targeted a hospital in India.
The impact of the first explosion was so powerful that scooters and cars parked 250 metres away were badly damaged.
A doctor at the Civil hospital, S.P. Christian, said that Saturday was terribly frightening. “We were removing a body after the first blast when another occurred. Terror-stricken, we dropped the body and everyone ran blindly. What are these evil men trying to achieve?”
Bipin Patel, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activist who had come to the hospital, saw the door of trauma centre getting blown. “The blast could have been triggered by a suicide bomber,” he felt. Authorities have not said if this is true.
The state government has announced an ex gratia of Rs.500,000 for families of the dead and Rs.50,000 to the injured. The central government has chipped in with Rs.100,000 for the dead plus Rs.50,000 to the injured.
The shadowy terrorists struck with military precision. Chief Minister Modi’s constituency came in for special attention, suffering a maximum of six blasts.
Gujarat is on high alert. Security forces have stepped up patrolling in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Rajkot. The Ahmedabad railway station has been sealed off and train services have been cancelled.
Elsewhere in the state, the Somnath temple in Junagadh has been cordoned off. Prominent temples in Ahmedabad have been provided extra security.
The first of the blasts Saturday took place in Maninagar, where deafening multiple explosions took place and were heard miles away.
Bombs exploded at the Hatkeshwar vegetable market, Thakkarbapanagar, at the Sardar Patel diamond market in Bapunagar, Sarangpur bridge in the old city, Isanpur, at Narol circle on the outskirts, and near Sangam theatre in Sarkhej area.
The Sangam cinema explosion took place in a moving bus but luckily its CNG tank did not explode.
Among the other blasts, one was in Muslim-dominated Juhapura area and another in Khadia area. One explosion took place near Galaxy cinema at Naroda. Like in Bangalore the previous day, the bombings quickly jammed the mobile telephone network.