NEW DELHI, Sept 7 (IANS): At least 11 people were killed and 76 injured, some critically, when a powerful bomb concealed in a briefcase exploded at a crowded gate of Delhi High Court Wednesday morning.
There was mayhem as the explosion occurred around 10.15 a.m. when about 300 visitors were crowding Gate 5 for passes to enter the complex. Several people fell dead instantly while others collapsed screaming in pain.
The terror attack took place less than four months after a low intensity explosion at the nearby parking lot. No one was injured then but officials now believe that may have been a dry run.
The high court is located in the heart of Delhi, a short distance away from India Gate monument. The court adjoins the National Gallery of Modern Art.
The Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami (HuJI) claimed responsibility. An email sent to two television channels demanded that the hanging of 2001 parliament attack convict Afzal Guru be repealed immediately.
As parliament adjourned after paying homage to the dead and security was scaled up across major cities, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh denounced it as a `cowardly attack` and vowed to stamp out terror.
`This is a long war in which all political parties, all people of India have to stand united so that the scourge of terrorism is crushed,` he said in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka.
Within hours, Delhi Police released sketches of two suspects — one in his mid-20s and another 50 years old.
The government quickly handed over investigation to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The prime minister and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit together announced Rs.5 lakh to families of the dead.
Police said seven of the injured were critically ill — and that the death toll could rise.
Among the dead was 21-year-old Amanpreet Singh Kohli, who was training to become a lawyer.
His cousin Ravinder Singh was inconsolable. `He would have been the first lawyer in the family. His mother is yet to come to terms with his death,` a moaning Singh told IANS.
U.K. Bansal, secretary (internal security) in the home ministry, said nitrate and pentaerythritol trinitrate (PETN) — a powerful explosive — seemed to have been used.
So powerful was the explosion that it left a crater two-three feet wide and one foot deep. Almost everyone who was killed seemed to have been in a small area around the concealed bomb.
The blast site resembled a horror movie.
There was blood everywhere along with severed limbs. Disfigured men, alive but in agony, were screaming hysterically, struggling to move.
Some lay dead. A few women wailed uncontrollably, unable to bear the sight around them.
Bhagwan Das, who was near Gate 5, recounted his `close encounter` with death.
`I saw people lose their hands and legs. Some were drenched in blood. Oh my God, it was a terrible scene,` Das, still in shock as blood oozed from his arm, told IANS.
It was the worst terror attack in the capital after the five synchronized bombings of 2008 that killed 30 people and injured hundreds.
Most of the dead and injured were rushed to the nearby Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, where families of the victims were bitter as they were kept away from their kin when politicians came calling.
Some raised slogans against Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram admitted that the Wednesday attack took place despite heightened security to coincide with parliament`s monsoon session.
`Intelligence pertaining to threats emanating from certain groups was shared with Delhi Police in July,` he said without elaborating.
The attack was widely condemned.
Visiting Israeli Minister Stas Misezhnikov called it the handiwork of a `twisted mind` against a `shrine of justice and democracy`.
The US offered assistance to bring the perpetrators to justice. Australian Prime Minister Julian Gillard said it was an `act of senseless violence`.