NEW DELHI, Oct 29: At least 50 people were killed in three bomb attacks in New Delhi on Saturday that both India and Pakistan, locked in talks to reach out to Kashmir’s earthquake victims, condemned as an act of terrorism.
More than 70 people were injured in the blasts, of which two happened in busy marketplaces. Their perpetrators were not immediately identified. While a CNN analyst was looking at the hand of Al Qaeda, some Indian TV channels were blaming Pakistan.
But perhaps most importantly, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which had rushed to see Kashmiri militants’ involvement in May this year when two cinema-houses in Delhi were attacked with bombs, pointedly declined to take sides on Saturday. Sikh militants were eventually blamed for those attacks.
BJP president L.K. Advani condemned Saturday’s attacks as an act of terrorism, but refused to apportion blame. The former Indian deputy premier said the festive season of Diwali due on Tuesday was a tense moment even during his administration.
The area of Paharganj, near the New Delhi train station, was crowded with Diwali and Eid shoppers when the first bomb went off there at around 5:30pm local time. The area is frequented by tourists.
Delhi’s Police Commissioner K.K. Paul confirmed that 15 people had died in the explosion in the area but they were not identified.
Reacting to the worst-ever terrorist attack on the Indian capital in recent years, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asserted that India would win the battle against terrorism. He termed the blasts a “cynical attack on innocent civilians”.
Police officials told news channels that it was a ‘clear act of terrorism’, and said RDX explosives might have been used in the attacks that all happened within a span of one hour.
India’s top officials reviewed the security situation at a meeting of the Crisis Management Group. Witnesses said the death toll could go up as scores of critically injured were rushed to hospitals in ambulances.
The second blast took place at south Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar market, which left at least 30 people dead. Shops caught fire, and bodies were being pulled out from them as police sealed off the area, NDTV network reported.
Three more people were killed in south Delhi’s Okhla locality after a bomb placed in a briefcase in a bus went off, police said.
Police sounded the red alert in the city and issued orders to close down all markets following the blasts. Mumbai and Kolkata have also been placed on red alert.
No terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the blasts so far. Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil said it was “too early to jump to conclusions” about which terrorist outfit was behind the attacks.
Indian news agencies quoted Home Minister Patil as saying 37 bodies were in Safdarjang Hospital. Health Secretary P.K. Hota said seven bodies were brought to the Lady Hardinge Hospital, four to the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital and two to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
Police Commissioner Paul said that the explosive, which went off in Paharganj, was planted either in a motorcycle or a rickshaw.
“These were definitely not accidents because three explosions cannot take place simultaneously without any planning,” Mr Patil said an hour after the blasts ripped through the bustling marketplaces.