New Delhi: Terror revisited the Indian capital Wednesday when a powerful explosion ripped through the workday bustle at the Delhi High Court, killing 11 people and injuring at least 76 in India’s third worst bombing since the November 2008 Mumbai attack.
The suitcase bomb went off around 10.30 a.m. just outside Gate No 5 of the complex near India Gate in central Delhi where passes are issued for the hundreds of litigants, media personnel and other visitors to the court.
According to Home Secretary R.K. Singh, the bomb was in a suitcase. “We have remains of the suitcase,” he told reporters.
Remains of the day that was to have been lay splattered all over the blast site – the fine spray of blood, tatters of what were till a few minutes ago litigants’ papers, deafening wails and disfigured men raising hysterical screams.
There was hysteria, panic and dread. Some burst into tears, some were too stunned to cry. Some picked themselves together, some didn’t have the limbs to move.
Around 300 people were waiting outside various gates of the court when the blast took place.
The Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami (HuJI) in an email to various media houses claimed responsibility. The email sent from an unknown location threatened that the hanging of 2001 parliament attack convict Afzal Guru should be repealed immediately.
“This is a long war in which all political parties, all the people of India have to stand united so that the scourge of terrorism is crushed,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in Dhaka as the families of the victims and those injured tried to come to terms with the enormity of their loss and investigators tried to piece together the conspiracy. He was returning to the capital by the evening.
The attack was widely condemned. Visiting Israeli Minister Stas Misezhnikov said the attack was the handiwork of a “twisted mind” against a “shrine of justice and democracy”Spiritual head Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said: It is a well-planned attack on our judiciary which has systematically brought the guilty to book. No one should support the perpetrators of such crimes. The whole nation sympathizes with the families of those bereaved and hurt.”
At the site, where the blast was marked by a crater, Bhagwan Das, an eyewitness, recounted his “close encounter” with a moment of terror that left him numbed. “I saw some people losing their hands and legs. Their bodies drenched in blood. God, it was terrible,” Das told IANS, himself in a state of shock.
A little distance away, at the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where the injured were taken, helpless cries of people resounded through the corridors.
Allauddin, 40, lost one of his legs in the blast. He was at the court for the hearing of a case related to his factory.
“My son…my son lost his leg,” cried his devastated father, as scores of people scurried around him.
Both houses of parliament were adjourned as news of the blast came in. The opposition sharpened its attack on the government, blaming it for the security lapse.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram admitted in the Lok Sabha that Delhi Police got intelligence inputs on terror threats in July this year. He also said the attack occurred although the capital was on high alert, implying gaps in the security system.
“Intelligence pertaining to threats emanating from certain groups was shared with Delhi Police in July… Despite Delhi Police remaining on high alert, the tragic incident occurred today,” he said.
The minister said the investigation will be handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), but it was not possible to identify the group that exploded the bomb.
Wednesday’s blast comes after the July 13 triple bombings in Mumbai that killed over 25 people. Before that, in February 2010, an explosion inside a popular eatery in Pune claimed 17 lives, four of them foreigners.
The terror attack Wednesday is also the second time in four months that the Delhi High Court has been targeted. On May 25, a low intensity explosion took place without causing any damage. The explosives were hidden in a plastic bag near a car in a service lane outside the court.